The externs in professional mode

Monday, 4 June 2012

Are Some More Equal Than Others in the Justice System?

Are Some More Equal Than Others in the Justice System?
By Alimamy Koroma, Extern at AdvocAid
The people of Sierra Leone with the help of the international community have been working relentlessly since the end of the brutal civil war in 2002 to strengthen the country’s machinery of justice. This is undoubtedly due to the realization that to a large extent it was the shameful decadence of this very system in the first place  that caused the civil war whose unspeakable consequences in terms of  loss of lives and properties would remain a dark chapter in the annals of our history for a very long time.
One should therefore be forgiven to expect the government to compliment the efforts of the people by taking every necessary step to ensure that the legal system is efficient not only when the accused is a poor and unconnected nobody but also when the rights to defend are those of the poor if not for anything but because that is what justice demands. The issue I would now like to explore is whether our legal system applies the same rule to the rich and poor or whether as some have suggested  our legal system draws inspiration from George Orwell’s animal farm, upholding the view that although all people are equal some are more equal than others?
I can already hear some readers screaming that equality before the law is simply an illusion that died with its foremost proponent A.V Dicey. I am a pragmatist myself and I have heard of inequality in the legal system of even western countries.  But when a legal system automatically loses files, concocts all sorts of excuses for adjournments and begins to get calls from politicians once the man in the dock /is a rich and connected somebody, are we not going a bit far? Is this not taking us back to pre-war Sierra Leone, where justice was a kingdom only known to the rich and powerful? I simply ask and these questions are not meant in any way to undermine the fantastic job done by the greater majority within the justice machinery who work very hard usually in challenging circumstances to ensure fairness in our courts. On the contrary, I expect these questions to stimulate a healthy debate among government officials, NGO’s, legal practitioners, students, youths and every Sierra Leonean for that matter  so as to explore ways in which we can improve our machinery of justice. This is because it is only when we are sure that the poor and the rich can get justice in this country can we be fully satisfied that never again will we suffer from the scourges of war.

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