BUCHANAN, Grand Bassa – The Catholic Justice and Peace Commission, a local human rights organization established by the Catholic Church in Liberia, has completed a training to better equip its community justice advisors in helping citizens resolve legal disputes.
The three-day training was held in Buchanan and drew 19 participants from three selected counties: Margibi, Grand Bassa, and Montserrado.
Pilate Johnson, the regional coordinator for the Archdiocesan Monrovia regional office of the JPC, said the training is a continuation of the work the organization has done since it was founded in 1991.
“JPC became the voice of the voiceless. It stood in the gap for those who could not otherwise talk for themselves. We spoke for people because the environment was not created for them,” Johnson told The Bush Chicken in an interview.
He said since the end of the nearly 14 years of civil war JPC has continued to empower ordinary citizens to speak for themselves through the provision of knowledge-based education on legal issues.
According to him, the training was intended to refresh the minds of the community justice advisers who provide legal assistance to rural dwellers, although he clarified that they are not lawyers.
“Basically, the role of the community justice advisors is to settle community disputes, especially civil matters such as child support, domestic violence, and even land dispute. They only guide both parties and if they agreed, they ensure that peace exists between them,” he said.
The JPC regional coordinator said he believes that people speak for themselves on legal matters only if they know their rights, which the trained community justice advisors could do.
Johnson said JPC has helped to reduce the number of cases reported to the police and taken to court in counties they are operating by providing education to community members on their rights. The counties include Margibi, Montserrado, Lofa, Nimba, Bong, Grand Bassa, Grand Gedeh, and Maryland.
One of the justice advisers who benefitted from the training, George Borbor, thanked the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission for the training on legal issues and promised to be more effective.
“We look at child support cases, land disputes, domestic violence; they have our numbers, so we receive calls almost every day. What we can do is to guide them, so when they agree that we settle it, we go ahead,” Borbor said.
He said their role is not to adjudicate cases but to find a way to settle smaller matters at the community level.
Featured photo by Sampson David