Skip Navigation
Liberia

Citizen Monitoring for the Justice System (LR0030)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: Liberia Action Plan 2017-2019

Action Plan Cycle: 2017

Status: Inactive

Institutions

Lead Institution: Chief Justice’s Office

Support Institution(s): MFDP, MICAT, Carter Center, IDLO, UNMIL, Citizens Bureau, Justice and Peace Commission, LAGSOL

Policy Areas

Access to Justice, Capacity Building, Justice, Open Justice, Open Parliaments, Participation in Lawmaking, Public Participation

IRM Review

IRM Report: Liberia Implementation Report 2017-2019, Liberia Design Report 2017-2019

Starred: No

Early Results: Marginal

Design i

Verifiable: Yes

Relevant to OGP Values: Civic Participation , Public Accountability

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion:

Description

What is the public problem that the commitment will address?: Consolidating the rule of law has been challenging in Liberia. Ensuring that the justice system and the courts operate for the benefit of citizens is critical to the rule of law and to building trust in government.Citizens are largely unaware of how the justice system works in Liberia; and the government lacks the capacity and knowledge to implement the rule of law effectively.; What is the commitment?: The commitment seeks to ensure access to justice for citizens by further bolstering jury offices, training magistrates, monitoring the performance of local courts and ensuring citizens are aware of their rights and access to justice.; How will the commitment contribute to solve the public problem?: The commitment will build capacity within the justice system and engage citizens around rule of law issues at the local level to ensure accountability within the system.; Why is this commitment relevant to OGP values?: Without effective access to justice and legal empowerment, no country can realize meaningful transparency, accountability and citizen participation. The commitment empowers citizens with the ability to respond to the injustices that affect their daily lives and a fair trial. It guarantees access to information related to laws and regulations.

IRM Midterm Status Summary

IRM End of Term Status Summary

4. Citizen Monitoring and Support for the Justice System

Language of the commitment as it appears in the action plan:

"The commitment seeks to ensure access to justice for citizens by further bolstering jury offices, training magistrates, monitoring the performance of local courts and ensuring citizens are aware of their rights and access to justice.

"The commitment will build capacity within the justice system and engage citizens around rule of law issues at the local level to ensure accountability within the system."

Milestones:

  1. Jury offices established in all 15 counties;
  2. Training of 300 magistrates across all 15 counties;
  3. Awareness raising around the roles of juries
  4. Track cases in courts to prevent delays in judication
  5. Open Justice initiative through which citizens monitor local courts, track cases and follow-up on the return of bond fees

Editorial Note: For the complete text of this commitment, please see Liberia's action plan at: https://www.opengovpartnership.org/documents/liberia-action-plan-2017-2019/

IRM Design Report Assessment

IRM Implementation Report Assessment

● Verifiable: Yes

● Relevant: Yes

Civic Participation

Public Accountability

● Potential impact: Minor

Completion: Limited

Did it Open Government? Marginal

This commitment aimed to improve access to justice through juror education, judicial consistency, and decreased wait time for trials. It sought to do so through the bolstering jury offices, training and appointing additional magistrates, and increasing public awareness and monitoring of local courts' performance. [29]

At the time this commitment was designed, Liberians significantly mistrusted the justice system. Many Liberians perceived that the justice system did not fairly serve the poor and marginalized citizens. [30] Additionally, national concepts of justice were not aligned with a rights-based system, which affected jury deliberations. [31] Access to formal justice was limited by scarce legal aid and unlawful magistrate fees. [32] The commitment built on Liberia's 2015 national action plan, during which the government established a central Jury Management Office and eight regional jury offices. However, the government did not implement the initial commitment's aim to publish court returns and records. [33]

Commitment implementation was limited at the end of the action plan period. The government did not establish additional jury offices (Milestone 1). [34] The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) trained 60 magistrates, which brought the total number to 240 magistrates. However, the ministry fell short of fulfilling Milestone 2, which involved training 300 magistrates in five years. [35] The IRM researcher did not find evidence that the government conducted awareness-raising campaigns on the roles of juries (Milestone 3). However, the MOJ partnered with the International Development Law Organization to conduct four baseline surveys in Montserrado and Nimba counties to measure public knowledge of the jury system. [36] Additionally, the MOJ internally inspected courts and produced end-of-term reports. [37] The ministry did not complete Milestone 5, which involved carrying out an open justice initiative.

Despite challenges, the country experienced measured improvement in access to justice by the end of the implementation period. There were more trained magistrates and a decreased adjudication wait time (from three to four months to one month). [38] Moreover, an upsurge in the number of court cases suggests increased use of and trust in formal justice systems. Additionally, jurors were randomly selected and no longer called by name, thus reducing chances of tampering. [39]

As a result, this commitment's activities had a marginal effect on opening government. The MOJ gained greater knowledge of judicial management and citizens' perceptions through inspection reports and citizen surveys. However, these efforts did not translate to increased public information on the judicial system. Likewise, the number of trained magistrates increased but failed to meet the commitment's aim. Failure to implement the open justice initiative inhibited significant improvements in civic participation and public accountability in the justice system.

[29] Independent Reporting Mechanism, Liberia Design Report 2017–2019 (Washington, DC: Open Government Partnership), https://www.opengovpartnership.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/Liberia_Design_Report_2017-2019_for-public-comment.pdf.
[30] Patrick Vinck, Phuong Pham, and Tino Kreutzer, "Talking Peace: A Population-Based Survey on Attitudes about Security, Dispute Resolution, and Post-Conflict Reconstruction in Liberia" (SSRN, 2011).
[31] Gavin Raymond, "Decentralizing Justice and Security in Liberia," Centre for Security Governance, 26 February 2014, http://secgovcentre.org/2014/02/decentralizing-justice-and-security-in-liberia/, accessed 2018.
[32] "ILAC Revisits Liberia for a New Assessment with an Access to Justice Lens," International Legal Assistance Consortium, 22 May 2019, https://ilacnet.org/ilac-revisits-liberia-for-a-new-assessment-with-an-access-to-justice-lens/
[33] "Citizen Monitoring of Justice System (LR0016)," Liberia, Open Government Partnership, https://www.opengovpartnership.org/members/liberia/commitments/LR0016/.
[34] Counselor Nimley and Counselor Katapah (Ministry of Justice), interview by IRM researcher, September 2019.
[35] This activity and milestone was written incorrectly in the national action plan, as 120 magistrates were to be trained within the implementation period, bringing the total to 300 magistrates trained within five years.
[36] International Development Law Organization homepage, https://www.idlo.int/, accessed December 2019.
[37] Counselor Nimley and Counselor Katapah (Ministry of Justice), interview by IRM researcher, September 2019.
[38] Andrew Nimley (Ministry of Justice), email communication with IRM staff, 12 October 2020.
[39] Ibid.

Commitments

Open Government Partnership