Liberia: Over fear of harassment considering the nature of their duty, Judges across Liberia have issued a plea for state security protection on grounds that their lives are under threat.
The judges’ request, which was communicated through Judge Ousman Feika, during the opening of the May 2022 term of Criminal Courts; A, B, C, D, and E, for Montserrado County, calls for the provision of 24-hour armed security protection to each judge.
The call from the Judges as disclosed by Judge Feika, who is the assigned judge of Criminal Court ‘D’, is being prompted by fear of reprisals, from basically families of convicts, as well as people they jailed — especially upon being freed.
Judge Feika and other judges who preside over the country’s criminal courts adjudicate the worse cases of violence including rape, murder, domestic abuse and more. Criminal Court ‘D’, which Judge Feika heads, is solely responsible to handle armed robbery and other armed-related cases.
“It is no secret that the current security situation in our nation is very fragile, and armed robbery and other dangerous criminal activities are on the increase,” Judge Feika noted while pleading for protection in the presence of Chief Justice Francis Korkpor. “There is a serious concern among judges resulting from callous and life-threatening attacks on their personal lives, families, and homes.”
“While we do not know the motive behind the attacks on judges, it is now imperative that judges be provided armed security guards to protect judges at all times. Now we do not feel safe and do not know what will happen if they seek revenge,” he narrated.
As it stands, only the five justices of the Supreme Court are capacitated with armed security protection, while judges of circuit courts are being left without security detail, which is now prompting the judges to recommend for their protection.
However, it has not been made vividly clear as to whether Judge Feika and his colleagues took into consideration the numerous challenges confronting the Liberia National Police, especially considering the lack of resources to provide security to the country, with threats and security incidents continuing to increase.
As the judges remain proactive with their plea, Judge Feika argued that the nature of their job requires judges to have state security protection — “looking at the very serious role judges play in our society.”
The Criminal Court D judge further noted that judges and their families are so vulnerable to attacks from unscrupulous individuals in the society and yet there is no state security protection for judges and their families.
“This needs to stop. It is, therefore, our expectation that the relevant authorities will take the appreciated steps to initiate or re-initiate programs for the protection of judges and their families across the country, ” he noted.
Judge Feika’s concern for judges’ security comes just a year after an arson attack on the home of Associate Justice Joseph Nagbe by some unknown individuals.
Up to the present, the police have not revealed a motive for the attack at Justice Nagbe’s home, but the investigation has continued for over a year now, without any closure.
Howbeit, there are mixed reactions amongst legal practitioners on the judges’ plea for armed security protection.
Following inquiry regarding the judges’ appeal, legal practitioners believe the call by the judges is motivated by another reason which they are not comfortable to disclose, as for the past decades, judges were not interested in being equipped with armed security protection.
“Because those judges were interested in providing fair and impartial and transparent justice to all with no exceptions. They were never interested in soliciting bribes to change their decision. Their concerns were for justice to be dispensed to everyone as provided in our 1986 Constitution,” they (legal practitioners) intruded.