By Ishmael Sallieu Koroma
The High Court in Sierra Leone is set to resume next week Monday 18th May for its May Criminal Sessions after more than two weeks of the judiciary’s closure on April 27th by a public notice issued by the country’s Chief Justice due to temporary measure to contain the spread of the virus in the country.
The Country’s judiciary was put to a halt after a remand centre inmate tested positive for coronavirus thus prompting the judiciary to suspend all magistrate and high court sessions for a month as a measure to stop the spread of the virus.
In a signed public notice on Monday , the country’s Chief Justice , Justice Desmond Babatunde Edwards said following the President’s call for the judiciary to consider appropriate measure to adjudicate the cases that emerge from the wide spread and heightened insecurity in the country, the judiciary will commence the May Criminal Sessions of the High Court in Freetown, Makeni , Bo , Kenema and Kono effectively next week Monday.
“To contain the spread of COVID -19 only a limited number of cases will be allowed at any specified time. All other protocols put in place in the courts in terms of social distancing , wearing of face mask , number of persons permitted into the court etc remain the same,’’ a Notice from the country’s Chief Justice said.
The Notice from the Office of the Chief Justice added , the Special Criminal Sessions which where hitherto should have commenced on the 8th of May 2020 and later postponed to 28th of May 2020 is here by abandoned and cancelled.
Meanwhile, in a public notice from the Office of the Attorney General and Minister of Justice , Dr. Priscilla Schwartz has said that certain public officers and individuals are in the habit of interfering with public officers in the course of their criminal investigations .
“Police officers are entitled to carry out their duties without interference and intimidation from public officers and member of the public. Members of the public are here by informed interference with Police officers in the course of criminal investigations is unlawful and could constitute an office of perverting the course of justice which carries a sentence of life imprisonment,’’ a notice from the Attorney General’s reads .
The Notice further stated that any person who interfere in criminal investigations without lawful justification shall be arrested and will face the due process of the law .
However , CSO’s on Friday called on President Bio , the chief human rights defender of the nation to suspend and endorse an immediate review of the Chief Justice’s regulation to suspending court sessions and trials for such a long period.
“As we have all noted, the closure of court proceedings has gravely undermined fundamental human rights in the country. Today, many accused persons on remand are languishing in prison unjustly while suspects are being held unlawfully at the CID without being charged to court, which is a clear violation of section 17 of the 1991 constitution. We maintain that social distancing measures, the use of facemasks and hand washing protocols can always be enforced during court sittings to help minimize the possibility of the spread of the virus,’’they argued.
The opening of the High Courts on Monday by the Judiciary will help many citizens that have been in police custody without been charged due to the closure of the judiciary.