Sierra Leone’s Chief Justice Stresses Judicial Independence and Access to Justice in Address to Ethiopian Delegation on Transitional Justice”

In his address to the Ethiopian Ministry of Justice delegation, Chief Justice Desmond Babatunde Edwards of Sierra Leone emphasized that judicial independence and access to justice are fundamental components of transitional justice.

He stated, “Transitional justice relies on access to justice, judicial independence, and integrity, instilling public confidence in the justice system’s mandate, function, and operations.”

Chief Justice Edwards highlighted the openness of Sierra Leone’s courts, inviting aggrieved parties to present their cases, with judges making decisions based on case merit.

Reflecting on Sierra Leone’s post-civil war scenario, Chief Justice Edwards underscored the significance of the 1991 Constitution, the supreme law applied across the country’s courts. He explained that the constitution establishes separate, independent, and equal branches of government – Executive, Legislative, and Judiciary , while emphasizing their interdependence in governance. The Chief Justice assured that the judiciary’s integrity remains paramount in case hearings and determinations, adding, “My judges, as I know them, prioritize the people’s interests.”

Addressing the Judicial and Legal Service Commission, overseen by the Chief Justice, he highlighted its role in recommending qualified individuals for judicial appointments, subject to parliamentary approval.

He stressed the importance of legal backing for judges’ appointment, tenures, salary, and gratuity to ensure the effectiveness of transitional justice. Sierra Leone’s judiciary, he noted, is built on core values like independence, impartiality, equality, accountability, and integrity.

Chief Justice Edwards acknowledged the contributions of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Special Court for Sierra Leone in the country’s transitional justice efforts.

Speaking on behalf of the thirteen-member Transitional Justice Working Group of Experts (TJWGE), delegation chairman Tadesse Kasse disclosed that the team, comprised of independent experts from various backgrounds, was appointed by the Ethiopian Justice Minister.

Their mandate involves assessing successful transitions from pre-conflict to post-conflict situations in the region, with the goal of formulating effective transitional policies. The proposed policy, once finalized by the TJWGE, will be presented to the government for implementation.