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FOR most participants at the core judicial skills week just ended at the University of Cape Town, the idea of an “integrity branch” of government was a novel one. It was briefly introduced to the gathering of judges from across the continent by UCT law professor Hugh Corder. Over the years, his regular discussions with judges at courses run by the Judicial Institute for Africa have been peppered with challenging new concepts, and this time was no exception.
Corder said that academics and judges in a number of countries were debating whether the time had come to broaden our understanding of government and add another branch to the long-established view that there were “three arms”: the executive, the legislature and the judiciary.
Speaking to Jifa after his presentation, Corder said he believed the idea of an “integrity branch” held great potential. He had been part of the drafting of SA’s post-apartheid constitutions, and all those involved in the processes “were very aware of the democratic deficit” – this a reference to the problem that for most people democracy is something experienced only at election time.
OF all the data unearthed by the research organization, AfroBarometer, and presented to the judges attending the recent core skills week in Cape Town, none is more surprising than this: though levels of mistrust of the courts are high across all the African countries surveyed, no fewer than 72 percent of participants believed that the courts have the right to make decisions that everyone must obey.
Against the widespread perception of court officials as corrupt, and the low levels of “trust” in the courts, the contrasting view that acknowledges judicial legitimacy is both startling and a possible basis for court-driven improvement.
The data, outlined for the judge-participants by AfroBarometer’s Sibusiso Nkomo, started the week’s work with some unexpected electricity: most of his audience were alarmed by the figures that showed the serious lack of trust in the court system reported by people surveyed in 36 African countries.
JUDGE Joseph Murangira was recently hailed in Jifa’s Quarterly Review as an unsung hero of judicial independence. A parliamentary committee, and then parliament itself, questioned a judgment that he had delivered (and that had been approved by the appellate courts), and threatened to “veto” it. The parliamentary authorities also made disparaging remarks about him and questioning his integrity, and the judge decided to sue parliament through the attorney-general. The full constitutional court bench found in his favour and awarded him significant damages. Murangira attended Jifa’s core-skills week in Cape Town, and was able to explain what had happened to his fellow judges from all over Africa. He told Jifa he had been heartened by the support he had received from his own colleagues in Uganda and from the judge-participants in the core-skills week.Please let us know at Jifa if you are aware of any other judge under pressure or of any case where judicial independence is under threat.
African Court Delivers a Landmark Decision on Statelessness
IN what is being hailed as a “monumental” decision for the continent, the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights has ruled that Tanzania arbitrarily deprived a man of his Tanzanian nationality. The judgment, likely to affect many “stateless” people in Africa, stipulates that a decision to strip someone of nationality may only be taken after a fair judicial process, and that arbitrary deprivation is in breach of the University Declaration of Human Rights. Tanzania has been given 45 days to restore Anudo Anudo’s nationality, fix the gaps in its legislation and report back to the court on what has been done to comply with its order. legislation and report back to the court on what has been done to comply with its order.
The Southern and Eastern African Chief Justices Forum has made a public statement over the plans to remove the Chief Justice of Lesotho from her office. Read the full statement HERE.
JIFA was invited to do a three day training on judgement writing for the Seychelles judiciary in April. Linda Dobbs and Penny Andrews formed the training team which was well received
Foreign judges on Lesotho bench slam political interference in judicial appointments
THREE foreign judges, invited to sit on Lesotho’s high court, have delivered a damning decision on attempts by that country’s prime minister to appoint his preferred candidate as appeal court president. As Carmel Rickard explains, jurist and legal academic Kananelo Mosito, who had once headed Lesotho’s apex court, was impeached for misconduct and dismissed under a previous government. When the country’s leadership changed last year, however, the incoming prime minister summarily removed the new appeal court president and installed Mosito once again.
Namibian Supreme Court outlaws ultra-long prison sentences
IN an important new decision, Namibia’s highest court has held that judges in that country may not impose jail terms that are “longer than a life sentence”. Prisoners serving life may be considered for possible parole after 25 years, and the Supreme Court has now held that any sentence in which parole is not at least notionally possible after 25 years, would be unconstitutional.
Uganda: Judicial Independence Reaffirmed
JUDGES of Uganda’s constitutional court have come to the rescue of two judicial colleagues, finding that the statutory five-year limited term of office of the industrial court bench undermined judicial independence and was unconstitutional and therefore invalid.
2017 saw many challenges for judiciaries in Africa, including a number of threats from the executive, electoral difficulties and political instability, as well as many examples of extraordinary judicial independence and courage. Some examples that come to mind are the Kenyan Constitutional Court’s decision to nullify the elections ; Zimbabwe’s Chief Justice and JSC’s fearless defence of the system of judicial appointments; The Seychelles Appeal Court judges speaking truth even when it involved one of their own; Malawi trying its first case under their new Gender Equality Act; Zambia grappling with balancing the rights of traditional culture, freedom of religion and international law and constitutional obligations and Uganda fleshing out the issue of the awarding of cost orders in Constitutional matters under the new constitution.
The undersigned organisations are gravely concerned about recent reports of events affecting the judiciary in the Seychelles. The developments in Seychelles have the potential to affect the actual and perceived independence of the court.
Multiple international guidelines and best practice standards highlight the crucial importance of the independence of the judiciary. The Latimer House Principles recognised that “an independent, impartial, honest and competent judiciary is integral to upholding the rule of law, engendering public confidence and dispensing justice.” This principle is reiterated in section 119 (2) of the Constitution of Seychelles which guarantees the independence of the judiciary and makes it subject only to the Constitution and laws of the country.