Combating prolonged pre-trial detention
As Liberia’s legal institutions sought to rebuild in the wake of the civil crisis, ABA ROLI assisted the Ministry of Justice and the judiciary to address institutional and structural challenges that contributed to prolonged pre-trial detention. To this end, in 2009, ABA ROLI played a vital role in the formation of the Ministry of Justice-chaired Pre-Trial Detention Taskforce, an important forum for the exchange of information on pre-trial detention issues. The taskforce consisted of representatives from government agencies, local non-governmental organizations and international partners. Recognizing that prolonged pre-trial detention is a symptom of systemic weaknesses, ABA ROLI supported the Ministry of Justice to host a pre-trial detention strategic planning conference. The conference led to the creation of issue-focused subcommittees and the initiation of strategic intervention plans. These efforts led to the development of a signed memorandum of understanding governing police and prosecution coordination on criminal investigations, as well as the development of a guide for the use of alternatives to detention for actors throughout the criminal justice chain. In addition to these policy-oriented interventions, ABA ROLI coordinated with local civil society groups, including the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission and Prison Fellowship Liberia, to provide legal assistance to inmates facing prolonged pre-trial detention at Monrovia Central Prison. ABA ROLI worked in coordination with the Magistrates Sitting Program and endeavored to improve record keeping in participating magisterial courts and sought to provide effective legal representation in these courts of first instance. From 2009 to 2012, ABA ROLI, through its partners at Catholic Justice and Peace Commission and Prison Fellowship Liberia, provided legal assistance to more than 2,000 pre-trial detainees.