Upholding The Rule of Law… APC Cases and Judicial Independence

By Amin Kef Sesay

Universally, it is an indisputable fact that in order to uphold and maintain the rule of law in any State there is the need to have in existence an independent Judiciary that should dispense justice fairly and impartially. When this kind of situation obtains then definitely citizens will have confidence in our court system as the bastion to seek redress. Without any iota of exaggeration, for tranquillity and stability to transpire in any country there must be in existence an independent judiciary to really portray that there is equality before the law.

Truth is, ever since the days of the APC in power, dating back to the mid-1960s, election petitions have been a staple of our judiciary’s diet that since those days has raised widespread concern over judicial independence. Many politicians, as well as ordinary litigants who firmly believe that they have been hard done by the judiciary in its verdicts against them have raised serious concern about the independence of the judiciary which makes a great part of the nation gloomy about the future of the rule of law.

Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. In these controversial highly controversial political times, it is all the more important for the rule of law to remain the unshakeable bedrock of our society.

Like many of my fellow citizens, we are worried about the increasing political polarization of society today and call for rational discussions about the role of the judiciary in establishing, preserving and promoting of the rule of within the parameters of the Basic Law – with the implication that all judicial matters must be addressed in a timely manner and fashion within the law.

Importantly, under rule of law, an independent judiciary answers to no political masters to ensure the rule of law continues to thrive.

The rule of law upheld firmly and fearlessly by an independent judiciary is universally recognized as a cornerstone of a lawful, peaceful our society. It involves three fundamental principles.

First, under the rule of law, everyone – both those who govern and those who are governed – is subject to the same laws. Secondly, disputes between citizens and between citizens and government are resolved fairly and impartially by an independent judiciary.

Judicial independence is integral to the rule of law, and such independence has two aspects: One, the judiciary is institutionally independent from the executive and the legislature; Two, each judge is independent, whether sitting alone or in a collegiate court consisting of more than one judge.

Thirdly, the rule of law involves the effective protection of human rights. As stated in the preamble to the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it is essential that human rights should be protected by the rule of law. This distinguishes the rule of law from the concept of “rule by law”.

Significantly and most critical for the impartial dispensation of justice, the judiciary must not be part of the executive. Judges swears to uphold the Basic Law. Under the principle of judicial independence, judges should not be pro or anti anyone or anything.

They should be fair and impartial. Judges have no master, political or otherwise. Their fidelity is to and only to the law. They serve the community by adjudicating disputes fairly and impartially according to law.

The Basic Law provides that judges shall be chosen on the basis of their judicial and professional qualities and that they exercise their judicial power independently of interference.

The legal requirement that they must take the judicial oath is a sufficient and satisfactory arrangement to conscientiously, dutifully, in full accordance with the law, honestly and with integrity, safeguard the law and administer justice without fear or favor, self-interest or deceit, as maintained by Andrew Li Kwok-nang, a former chief justice of the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal.

In Sierra Leone the 1991 Constitution states that, “The judicial power of Sierra Leone shall belong to the judiciary of which the chief justice shall be the head.”

Judicial power refers to the power to interpret laws and punish offenders, as well as arbitrating disputes among individuals thereby upholding human rights and justice in society.

To ensure that judicial officers perform their functions without fear or favor, another clause is found in sub section-3 of the same section of the constitution which section grants complete autonomy on the judiciary in the dispensation of their scared functions. It reads:

“In the exercise of its judicial functions, the judiciary shall be subject to only this constitution or any other law and shall not be subject to the control or direction of any other person or authority.”


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