News / Africa

    Liberian Officials Insist Justice System is Improving

    James Butty
    A senior Liberian official said the West African country has made significant progress in rooting out corruption and improving the justice system. 

    Justice Minister Christian Tah was reacting to the most recent U.S. State Department human rights report that criticized Liberia for judicial inefficiency and corruption, lengthy pretrial detention, denial of due process and harsh prison conditions.
     
    The report said government officials engaged in corrupt practices with impunity, and said judges, magistrates, and jurors were subject to influence and corruption.
     
    Tah and Anti-Corruption Commission Chairperson Frances Johnson-Morris both agree that corruption remains a menace in Liberia. 

    But, Tah said Liberia, having inherited a completely dismantled social and justice system as a post-war country, is determined to continue the improvements.

    “In the first place, I have not read this report.  I was only told about it this morning.  I can only say, generally, that our people know where we have come from and our people know in the last six or seven years where we were and what we have done to come from where we were to where we are, and that well-meaning Liberians and foreigners partners know that we have improved significantly,” she said.

    The report said an estimated 78 percent of prisoners in Liberia were pretrial detainees, despite the release of hundreds (710) by the “Fast Track Court and 26 by the probation program to reduce overcrowding.”
    Butty interview with Tah
    Butty interview with Tahi
    || 0:00:00
    ...    
     
    X

    It said, “Judges were susceptible to bribes for awarding damages in civil cases; judges sometimes requested bribes to try cases, released detainees from prison, or found defendants not guilty in criminal cases.”

    Tah said it’s difficult to run a post-war country with all its social institutions dismantled due to civil war.  But, she said the government of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has been working to improve the justice system, including reducing the number of pretrial detentions.

    “One of the things we identified right away was that the system was operating in a disjointed fashion.  It had to be operated holistically; that means that all the justice actors - the police, the court house, the prosecution, and the prison system - all of those institutions had to operate interdependently.  And, fortunately for us, the judiciary has agreed to collaborate with us, and, because of that, we’ve been able to make a lot of improvement,” Tah said.

    She said the government has begun to decentralize the system by embarking on building five justice hubs around the country so that every Liberian will have access to the justice system.

    “That shows that we are really determined to improve the system.  Right now, we are revamping the entire prosecution team; we have [a] new Solicitor General.  We meet every day looking at the cases we have to prioritize,” she said.

    Tah said the government is equally concerned about other issues such as the sexual exploitation of children, human trafficking, and fraudulent sale of land, and has begun to train prosecutors to handle specific criminal areas.

    The report said government “officials engaged in corrupt practices with impunity.”  It said low pay levels for the civil service, minimal job training, and few court convictions exacerbated official corruption and encouraged a culture of impunity.

    It said the Ministry of Justice and the Liberian Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) are two agencies responsible for exposing and combating official corruption.

    The report said the LACC investigated 16 cases and recommended eight for prosecutions resulting in one conviction. 

    It said, over the LACC’s objections, the Justice Ministry dropped charges against the former Inspector General of police, Beatrice Munah Sieh, for irregularities in the procurement of uniforms.

    Tah said her ministry has been aggressive in prosecuting corrupt officials given the resources at its disposal.

    She said her ministry dropped charges against Sieh because of lack of sufficient evidence.

    “I would like to address [the] Munah Sieh case because it comes up a lot, and I think it is only fair for [the] public to know the facts.  I will not prosecute any Liberian citizen on insufficient evidence. It’s not fair for taxpayers to pay for a case that we know will not be successfully prosecuted,” Tah said.

    Johnson-Morris said her commission has been unable to get a strong commitment from the judicial branch with regards to the prosecution of corrupt officials.

    She confirmed that the Justice Ministry dropped charges against former police Inspector General Sieh for lack of sufficient evidence. But, Johnson-Morris said her commission is now prosecuting that case.

    “It will interest [you] to know that that same case that they dropped for lack of sufficient evidence is being prosecuted by the LACC. The jury returned a unanimous verdict of guilty against the former police chief and her collaborators.  We filed the motion for a new trial and the process is on,” Johnson-Morris said.

    Johnson-Morris also said “cultural factor” is another aspect hampering her commission’s fight against corruption, whereby the society glorifies corrupt individuals more than those trying to earn an honest living.

    You May Like

    Clinton, Trump and the 'Woman’s Card'

    Ask supporters of Democratic front-runner in US presidential campaign, and they’ll tell you Republican presidential candidate is playing a dangerous hand

    Russian Censorship Group Seeks Chinese Help to Better Control Internet

    At recent Safe Internet League forum in Moscow, speakers from both nations underscored desire for authorities to further limit and control information online

    Video Makeshift Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Free classes in Islamabad park serve a few of the country’s nearly 25 million out-of-school youths; NGO cites ‘education crisis’

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Matthew George from: United States
    April 22, 2013 2:02 PM
    Ellen and Government officals need to prosecuted for corruption.
    The Ellen administration is the most corrupt administration in Liberia history. Government officals and their family living decent life,while Liberian continues to live in absolute poverty. Liberian need to stage ANTI-GOVERNMENT DEMONSTRATION. What happening in Liberia is complete nonesense.Ellen running a NEPOTISTIC FORM GOVERNMENT. Ellen and her CRIMINALS finding all means to MORTGAGE our beloved COUNTRY. As concern citizen,we won't allow Ellen her CRIMINALS to MORTGAGE Liberia.

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora