Centre for Human Rights alumnus appointed Chief Justice-designate of Sierra Leone

Posted on January 21, 2016

The Centre for Human Rights in the Faculty of Law at the University of Pretoria (UP) is proud to announce the appointment of one of its alumni – the Honourable Justice Abdulai Hamid Charm – as the new Chief Justice of the Republic of Sierra Leone, subject to the approval of Parliament.

Mr Charm holds a Bachelor of Law degree (LLB) with honours from Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone, and the degree of Barrister-at-Law (BL) from the Sierra Leone Law School. Prior to commencing his studies at the Centre for Human Rights, he had served as a prosecutor in Sierra Leone for nine years, from 1992 to 2001, first as State Counsel and then as Senior State Counsel.

Mr Charm’s highest degree and most recent qualification is an LLM in Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa, obtained at the Centre for Human Rights at UP in December 2000. Mr Charm is a member of the pioneer class of this world-renowned programme, and the first Chief Justice of Sierra Leone to have been called to the bar in that country.

After leaving the University of Pretoria, and while in private practice, Mr Charm co-founded the first legal aid centre in Sierra Leone – the Lawyers Centre for Legal Assistance (LAWCLA) in 2001 – serving as its Director of Litigation from 2002 to 2003. LAWCLA was co-founded with Mr Melron Nicol-Wilson, also an alumnus of the Centre for Human Rights (LLM in Human Rights and Constitutional Practice, 1998).

Mr Charm then worked for the Sierra Leone National Revenue Authority, as Principal Collector (2003–2005), Deputy Commissioner (2005–2007), and Director of Policy and Legal Affairs (2007–2010). In 2011, he was appointed Judge of the High Court and, later, the Court of Appeal of Sierra Leone. In 2013, he was appointed Judge of the Residual Special Court for Sierra Leone.

On 28 December 2015, President Ernest Bai Koroma appointed Mr Abdulai Charm Chief Justice of Sierra Leone, subject the approval of Parliament. Mr Charm’s appointment is not only an acknowledgment of his long, dedicated and outstanding service to that country, but an indication of the positive contribution that this UP graduate can bring to the judiciary and the law in Sierra Leone.

Mr Charm’s singular career path is especially laudable in that he elected to serve his country, which is still struggling in many respects from the devastating effects of a civil war in the 1990s, rather than pursue an international career – for which his studies at the University of Pretoria would have made him more than eligible.

Mr Charm is remembered at the Centre for Human Rights as a quiet, intelligent, and efficient student who brought a wealth of experience and a high level of maturity to the classroom. His rich and varied experience since leaving here, make him eminently qualified to hold the position of Chief Justice of Sierra Leone.

Mr Charm has been called to this high office at a time in Sierra Leone’s history when democracy is taking root and when there are positive signs that the scars of war are beginning to heal. There remains much to be done, however, to entrench the democratic gains and ensure that the judiciary remains strong and independent. Mr Charm is well qualified to rise to these challenges, with his trademark courage and conviction, quiet but firm hand, and passion for human rights and human development.

We at the Centre for Human Rights congratulate Mr Charm warmly on his appointment, and – while assuring him of our availability should we be in a position to help – present him our best wishes for confirmation of his appointment by Parliament. Beyond that, we wish him stability, serenity and success in the years to come.


- Author Centre for Human Rights

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