SDI Coordinator, Nora BowierSustainable Development Initiative (SDI), a forest watchdog that provides updates on the use of Liberia’s forest, has launched a project aimed exclusively at empowering forest community dwellers to be more knowledgeable of the significance of the forests.At the launch of the US$99,925 project on Thursday, August 16 in Monrovia, under the title, “Strengthening Community Forestry Structures and Their Governance”, Nora Bowier, SDI’s Coordinator, said that the project seeks to enhance community empowerment so that community members can sustainably use their forest to yield the benefits that belong to them.Ms. Bowier said SDI will ensure that communities possessing forests will be provided technical knowledge and capacity so that they will have the benefit of their forest, and not “business as usual.”She said as they are set to commence the project, they need support from their partners, including community members, to ensure that the goals and objectives are met in the one-year period the SDI has as the project’s time frame.The project is funded by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), European Union, UKAID and Sweden.Already, the EU is making a huge investment in Liberia’s forest sector under the Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA). The VPA seeks to ensure that logs harvested from Liberia’s forest are certificated before leaving for countries within the EU.Additionally, the EU has negotiated with the Liberian government through the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) to set certain percent of income from logging to affected communities as a benefit to them.This arrangement has at some points proven successful in the forest county of River Cess, but projects initiated from income from logging in that county are currently stalled due to exhaustion of the fund without accountability.While performing the launch of the project, Abraham Guillen, VPA Support Unit Team Leader in Liberia, said they are glad to liaise with a non-governmental institution like the SDI for such a project.Mr. Guillen said it is an essential engagement to make communities know their rights to the forest, and to have some benefits, but it should be done in a sustainable way so that the forest will not be depleted to make Liberia be like other desert countries.Also, Guillen warned that community dwellers and government should use the forest in a way to discourage illegal logging activities.A representative of the EU at the launch, David Palacio, said that it is premature to be happy at the beginning of the launch.“I cannot accept congratulations for now; the results from the implementation will bring congratulations [more] than the launch,” David said.He said the EU through the VPA has invested huge sums of money in Liberia’s forest for sustenance and benefits to the forest communities.Palacio added that they are implementing the project to help Liberia avoid running out of forests in 15 to 20 years from now, and be like other countries in the West African region.Also commenting, Mariatou Njie, FAO Representative to Liberia, said forests play significant roles in the livelihoods of poor people, and it is important that communities be involved in forest governance.She said, “participatory approaches are central to the concept of community involvement, and practical implementation is relying heavily on community forestry experiences.”She added that FAO over the years spearheaded the concept of community-based forestry as key elements in achieving social, economic and environmental objectives to sustainable forest management.Gertrude W. K. Nyaley, FDA Technical Manager of Community Forest Department, for her part, lauded the launch of the project.Meanwhile, the project will promote knowledge and technical skills to eight community Forestry Management bodies in Nimba, River Cess, Sinoe, Grand Gedeh and Lofa Counties.This will provide insight to community members about their rights and responsibilities in community forest management with focus on youth and women participation.It will also strengthen technical capacities of the National Union of Community Forest Management Boards (CFMB) to negotiate fair deals with logging companies and investors, and to monitor the negotiations of Commercial Use Contracts (CUCs).These activities will be approached through meetings with forestry stakeholders, including representatives of FDA, Community Forest Development Committee, CFMB Union, civil society, and the targeted communities to create awareness.Other methods include conduct of Free, Prior, Informed Consent (FPIC) capacity building events; holding of education and awareness meetings on Community Rights Law of 2017, conduct of record keeping, and bookkeeping skills training; and collaborating with the NUCFMB to conduct four regional awareness and education events on the use of the Commercial Use Contract template, and provide logistical support to the UNCFMB to participate and monitor at least two negotiations involving two new CFMAs and third party investors.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)
The backlog of criminal cases within the Supreme Court of Judicature has been reduced by 212 cases after they were disposed of by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Chambers in 2019.The Director of Public Prosecutions ChambersIn its annual report, the DPP said of the 212 cases, 178 received attention in High Courts across the country while 34 matters were nolle prosequi (not prosecuted) by the DPP. Of the 178 cases, 110 were presented at the Demerara Assizes, 25 at the Berbice Assizes and 43 at the Essequibo Assizes.There were 86 cases for murder, 84 sexual offences, two cases for the offence of manslaughter, five cases of attempt to commit murder and one case for accessory after the fact to murder. These cases resulted in 36 convictions, 56 guilty pleas, 32 formal verdicts of not guilty, 28 not guilty verdicts by jury, five hung juries, four aborted trials and 51 cases were nolle prosequi, 16 of which were done in Court.During 2019, the DPP also appeared in 30 matters in the Court of Appeal. The State was represented by Assistant DPP Dionne McCammon, Assistant DPP Teshana Lake, Assistant DPP Diana O’Brien, Assistant DPP Natasha Backer, Senior State Counsel Mercedes Glasford, State Counsel Narissa Leander and State Counsel Orinthia Schmidt in those matters.Of these 30 appeals, 12 were for sexual offences, three for the offence of manslaughter, eight for murder appeals, two for wounding with intent, another two for possession of narcotics for the purpose of trafficking and one each for felonious wounding, causing death by dangerous driving and uttering a forged document.The Court of Appeal dismissed and denied eight of these applications to appeal against conviction and sentence; while six other appellants’ applications were allowed in part, that is, the appeals against conviction were dismissed but the appeals against sentence were allowed. The sentences were varied which included commutation of two death sentences to life imprisonment.In addition, the Court of Appeal reserved one decision while one other application was withdrawn. There were eight applications for extension of time to file and serve notices of appeal of which six were granted and two were denied. Five appellants made applications for bail pending their appeal, three of these were denied while one application was granted and one other application was withdrawn. The Court of Appeal also allowed an appeal by the State against an acquittal.During this year, the Demerara Full Court dealt with 15 matters for the offences of break and enter and larceny, possession of firearm without license, murder, possession of cannabis, possession of narcotics for the purpose of trafficking, assault causing actual bodily harm and rape of a girl under 16 years. Four applications were withdrawn, one application was struck out after the Full Court ruled it had no jurisdiction to hear the matter, five appellants were denied their applications while five others were granted their applications to appeal.Meanwhile, the Berbice Full Court heard an application to appeal against sentence for the offence of possession of narcotics for the purpose of trafficking. The appellant did not attend court and the application was dismissed. The Berbice Civil Court also heard an application to quash a committal for the offence of murder and the application was granted.In 2019, the DPP appeared at the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) in an application for leave to appeal against a decision of the Court of Appeal, where the conviction and sentence for the offence of manslaughter was dismissed. The CCJ dismissed the application. The Chambers are also engaged in another case before the Trinidad-based regional court, where the applicant applied for leave to appeal against the decision of the Court of Appeal to dismiss an appeal against conviction and sentence for the offence of rape of a child under 16 years. The CCJ has denied the application for leave to appeal against the conviction but has granted leave to hear the appeal against sentence in January 2020.During 2019, the DPP’s office received 318 depositions, of which 174 indictments were proffered, 16 were returned to Magistrates’ Courts for reopening of cases, 13 matters were discontinued, two were nolle prosequi while 113 matters are receiving attention. The Chambers also gave legal advice in 3725 files received from the Guyana Police Force and other law enforcement agencies.The last criminal session of 2019 in Demerara came to an end on December 20, when the goal delivery was done by Justice Sandil Kissoon. The Demerara October 2019 Criminal Assizes was presided over by Justice Kissoon along with Justices Jo-Ann Barlow and Simone Morris-Ramlall.During this session, 49 of 322 cases were disposed of with 36 having received attention in the Demerara High Court while 12 were nolle prosequi by the DPP via letter.Of the 36 matters that were presented, 20 were for the offence of murder while 16 others were for sexual offences. These resulted in 13 guilty pleas, nine guilty verdicts by jury, three not guilty verdicts, six formal verdicts of not guilty, two hung juries and three aborted trials.The January 2020 Criminal Assizes in Demerara will open on January 14, 2020, with a total of 318 cases listed to be heard. Justices Barlow, Kissoon and Brassington Reynolds have been rostered to sit during this session.Meanwhile, the Berbice Criminal Assizes which opened on October 15, 2019, is ongoing until February 3, 2020. State Prosecutor Seeta Bishundial presented six matters thus far before Justice Brassington Reynolds during this assizes. The February 2020 Berbice Criminal Assizes will commence on February 4.Additionally, the October 2019 Essequibo Criminal Assizes also remains in progress. During this session thus far, State Counsel Lisa Cave has presented seven matters before Justice Gino Persaud. The Essequibo February 2020 Criminal Assizes will commence on February 18.