Minister of Justice commits the government to institutionalizing ADR

February 28, 2023

The Minister of Justice and Attoney-General Counsellor Frank Musah Dean

UNDP Liberia

The Minister of Justice Counsellor Frank Musah Dean Jr. has pledged the government’s commitment to ensuring that Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) is institutionalized and formalized as a core component of ensuring access to justice especially for the poor in Liberia.

Counselor Dean said that ADR contributes to building an inclusive society, with a strong focus on promoting human rights, peace and security while addressing the critical justice needs and interests of the country and its citizens.

The Minister of Justice of Liberia was speaking at a one-day dialogue on the official launch of a national consultation and sensitization on a proposed ADR legislation on 24, February 2023 in Monrovia and attended by high level personalities including the Minister of Internal Affairs, Varney Sirleaf.

“Not only do we as a nation join the rest of the world to commit to providing access to justice for all citizens but are fully aware that access to justice is a key indicator of peace and the building of inclusive societies.  One way to ensure access to justice by citizens is to put at their disposal functioning mechanisms capable of resolving disputes that may arise from the day-to-day interactions of citizens, particularly the poor and vulnerable population. As such, the formalization and institutionalization of ADR as a core component of our justice system through a policy and legal framework is one of the best ways to ensure access to justice” said Justice Minister Dean.

He recognized support from international development partners, particularly, UNDP with funding from the Irish Aid, Carter Center, IDLO, Prison Fellowship Liberia, Medica Liberia, Action Aid and so many others to an inclusive and participatory processes of improving access to justice for the general population, especially the poor and vulnerable. The Minister also encouraged more partners to come onboard and support the development of the legislation.

Also speaking at the event, UNDP Liberia Resident Representative Stephen Rodrigues applauded the strides of the government in pursuing legislative reforms as reflected in the enactment of key legislations whose development were supported by UNDP’s Rule of Law Programme.

He said progress towards achieving the national objective of mainstreaming ADR in Liberia through a fully enacted legislation will resolve some of the key challenges in the justice system especially overcrowded court dockets and prolonged pre-trial detention.

Rodriques however, urged the Government to fast track the implementation of these legislative measures, stressing that commitments to supporting and promoting the rule of law should be matched with investments and action.

“At the core of the rule of law are ideals and aspirations, towards which members of the society must continuously and actively work. While we put in place legislative reforms to decongest the court system and reduce prisons overcrowding, we should also note that time is of the essence. The problem of prisons overcrowding has taken alarming proportions,” said UNDP Liberia Resident Representative.

He wants the Legislature to enact the Legal Aid Bill, which was submitted in 2022, another key legislation which will help to reduce prisons overcrowding and pre-trial detention by establishing a comprehensive framework to provide legal aid to Liberians. “I am happy to say that the development of this legislation was also supported by UNDP.”

The UNDP Liberia Resident Representative further stated: “Today’s dialogue which sets to kick start the legislative process and the follow up national consultations and awareness are critical for two reasons. First, legislative processes require that citizens are active, fully informed and participate in the creation of laws which regulate their behavior and protects human rights. Second, laws must represent the values and wishes of society.”

The First Secretary, of the Embassy of Ireland Simon Mc’Cormack also emphasized that the proposed legislation on ADR has the potential to make significant impact on promoting greater inclusion of those who are most vulnerable or marginalized.

Mc’Cormack said it also provides justice for so many, reduces the costs associated with going to court and would help those involved in disputes without adequate means to use the formal court system especially women and those with disabilities to resolve cases faster and get redress that satisfies both parties.

“Improvements in the speed at which justice is dispensed will not just benefit the criminal justice system by freeing up resources to deal with more serious matters but can positively affect the lives so many people and help to build confidence in the capacity of the state to deliver for its citizens,” said Mc’Cormack.

As one of the partners advancing the conversation on the ADR legislation, the Carter Center strongly believes that ADR offers an alternative to the traditional court system which can be slow, expensive, and intimidating for many people, especially those in rural areas.

At the launch of the one-day dialogue on the sensitization of the ADR legislation, Carter Center’s Country Director James Dorbor Jallah emphasized that the ADR provides an opportunity for people to resolve disputes in a way that is fair, efficient, and respectful of their cultural values and customs.

“We believe that the ADR legislation is a significant milestone in promoting access to justice, strengthening the rule of law and advancing sustainable development in Liberia,” said Jallah.

As part of the massive public awareness, engagement and outreach on Liberia’s ADR process, the project will hold stakeholders’ consultations, advocacy campaigns, trainings, and develop simplified versions of the ADR policy among others. This will be followed by the drafting of the legislation and training of relevant stakeholders.