The Campaign for Human Rights and Development International (CHRDI) is urging the new government of President Julius Maada Bio to especially consider appointing new judges, citing a huge deficit of judges which it says has resulted in a large backlog of unheard cases.
CHRDI in a statement said that its findings revealed that there were currently 1, 540 cases being heard by only 24 judges, including 33 criminal and 122 civil cases reserved with no judgement.
The campaign group said an overhaul of the judiciary and immediate action would be crucial to ensure that the long list of delayed matters before the courts are addressed with the speed, seriousness and fairness they deserve.
CHRDI is a rights-based public social-policy advocacy organization which seeks to draw attention to the responsibility of duty-bearers to uphold human rights, and seek to support rights-holders to claim their rights. Registered in the United Kingdom and Sierra Leone, the organization has a Special Consultative Status at the United Nations Economic and Social Council and is accredited to many UN Agencies.
“CHRDI is aware that many Sierra Leoneans are frustrated and concerned that some matters before the courts have taken more than five years without any judgement being given,” the organization said in its statement. It cited as a case in point the 50th [Independence] Anniversary corruption case for which no judgement has been given by the judge for almost seven years since it was first heard. It also said there were many land cases still pending in court. Some litigants, it noted, have died during the course of their case, whilst awaiting judgement.
According to organization, the delay in cases before the courts is largely attributed to the inefficiency of some judges who are way past retirement age, as well as shortage of judges. This, it said, has increased the work load on the few available judges.
“We are of the conviction that to have only 24 working judges for a country of seven million people is a recipe for injustice on a grand scale,” CHRDI’s Chief Executive, Abdul Fatorma, said.
The call comes as President Bio appointed a new Chief Justice, following the surprised resignation of the former. The new Chief Justice, Desmond Babatunde Edwards, took oath of office on December 21, about a week after his appointment was announced. He has promised to revamp the judiciary.