“Respect Rule of Law & give Commissions of Inquiry a chance…” LAB admonishes

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It is noted that one of the outstanding institutions in the country, the Legal Aid Board is concerned about how the poor and marginalized are increasing in high demand for its services around the country in the lead up to and after the launch of the Commissions of Inquiry on 29 January 2019.
The Board provided legal assistance to over hundred and fifty suspects in Police Stations in Freetown and other parts of the country in the past week. Most of these cases relate to crime and lawlessness. Also, the Board received several calls from the public including politicians, stakeholders and police officers informing the Board about indigent suspects who have a right to our services.
At the same time, many have expressed alarm at the highly charged atmosphere and the level of intolerance in communities. The Board is concerned the situation could degenerate to levels seen in the March 2018 General Elections, if politicians do not tone down their rhetoric.
The rising tension, as we have come to find out, is in large part due to the level of ignorance among the public about the Commissions. What is more, there are the educated who choose to believe the lies that are being told about the Commissions by politicians. The Board is however convinced that some of the disputes and violence relating to the Commission could be prevented through education and sensitization.
This is why we are calling on the Ministry of Information and Communication to continue to ensure community ownership of the process and work with Community Based Organizations, chiefdom Human Rights Committees and Civil Society Groups, Local Authorities, Stakeholders and Community Radios to educate the public on the Commissions and also mediate community level disputes before they degenerate into violence.
The Board wishes it to be known that while indigent persons (poor and marginalized) have a right to legal advice and legal representation, it is important to note that the Board does not have enough personnel to provide these services to all those who are entitled to them. With Sixteen (16) lawyers and forty-two (42) Paralegals stationed around the country, the Board simply cannot guarantee these services to all indigents even though they have a right to them.
The Board would therefore like to call on all especially indigents to reframe from engaging in violence due to the commissions. Those who take to violence and fall foul of the law will not be given priority by the Board.
The Board wants its clients to know that those who have issues with the Commissions should take them to the courts. The Sierra Leone Bar Association is doing just that. Politicians can do the same if they have any such issues. Resorting to violence because one is opposed to the Commission is totally unacceptable. Those who allow themselves to be used will be on their own and therefore will not receive any assistance from the Board for reason already articulated.
We call on all to allow the Rule of Law to operate.

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