“Period of Impunity is over” after Judiciary launches saturday courts in Freetown

26 Feb 2011

The Sierra Leone Judiciary has launched the Saturday Courts designed to specifically to sit on Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) cases at the Law Court Building in Freetown, on Saturday 26th February 2011.

The Saturday Courts will be held in addition to the normal weekday court sittings and it is hope will enable the judiciary to clear the approximately 700-case backlog of SGBV cases throughout the country.

The Consultant Master and Judicial Registrar of the Sierra Leone Judiciary, Julia Sarkodie-Mensah said at the launching ceremony that the Saturday Courts will sit on Friday afternoons and Saturdays to hear SGBV cases in order to bring justice to victims of Sexual and Gender based violence including victims of rape. Mrs Sarkodie-Mensah said “We’re going to make these invisible people visible.”

Madame Sarkodie-Mensah explained to an audience including magistrates, court staff, police and correction officers that the Saturday Courts were designed to respond to the needs of SGBV survivors and send the message that the “period of impunity is over for SGBV perpetrators, as urgent and appropriate measures are now being taken to tackle this cancerous problem.”

The Saturday Courts will also fast track cases involving women in remand and other matters arising from the Three Gender Acts of 2007 which include the Devolution of Estates Act, the Registration of Customary Marriage and Divorce Act and the Domestic Violence Act.

Principal Magistrate J.O. Wellington expressed delight for the launch of the Saturday Courts informing the gartering that the initiative will be rolled out in Bo, Kenema and Makeni in the coming weeks for national coverage.

He said that with the continued support from UNDP and other partners in the Justice Sector, series of measures are being put in place by the Sierra Leone Judiciary for the enhancement of access to justice for women and other marginalized groups in the country.

UNDP Rule of Law Officer for Western Area, Ms Shazia Razzaque said that despite the laudable efforts of many key institutions such as the Family Support Units of the Sierra Leone Police, challenges remain in the area of combating SGBV. “Women still face challenges in invoking their rights under the ‘Three Gender Acts’. It is in response to these hard realities that the judiciary of Sierra Leone proposed these extraordinary court sittings, which UNDP is so pleased to help support.” Ms Razzaque said.

Contact Information

Abdul Karim Bah, Communications Analyst, UNDP Sierra Leone. Tel: + 232 33 167 428. Email: abdul-karim.bah@undp.org