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African judges task selves on transparency, impartiality

By Bridget Chiedu Onochie (Abuja Bureau Chief)
06 November 2021   |   4:01 am
To restore public confidence and trust, judicial officers from across Africa have tasked themselves on transparency and impartiality in the discharge of their duties.

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To restore public confidence and trust, judicial officers from across Africa have tasked themselves on transparency and impartiality in the discharge of their duties.

This was as the fifth African Judicial Dialogue ended yesterday in Dar Es Salaam, Federal Republic of Tanzania. The forum was organised by the African Court on Human and People’s Rights.

Deliberating on the theme, ‘Building Trust in African Judiciaries’, the participants, which comprised Chief Justices of member states and justices of the apex courts from respective countries, asserted that in spite of its numerous challenges, which include poor remuneration and dependency on the executive, the need for self-censorship could not be over-emphasised if the judiciary would regain public confidence across the continent.

While expressing commitment to ensuring necessary reforms that would strategically reposition the sector in the scheme of things, the participants also tasked the executive on adequate funding of the judiciary.

They decried the relegation of the judiciary by the executive and the legislature, expressing the need for members to fight for enhanced welfare package as a measure for tackling compromise.

The Vice President, Republic of Tanzania, Dr. Phillip Mpango, who declared the dialogue open, identified independence of the judiciary, impartiality, transparency as well as the use of technology as some of the measures to restore confidence in African judiciaries.

Mpango, who represented President Samia Suluhu Hassan, stated that the choice of the theme was in itself an honest admission of the limited trust or confidence that Africans have in their judiciaries.

“Therefore, in order to earn their trust, we have to know and work hard to find a cure to what are the strongest factors and concerns that diminish trust in African judiciaries.

“I have encountered a general public outcry regarding shocking or unpleasant experiences with the courts such as cases being adjourned many times or left pending for years in which case the legal maxim which says justice delayed is justice denied remain a cry in the wilderness.

“I also encountered complaints about unbearable costs of litigation; cumbersome court procedures; court summons and judgments written in foreign languages; discrimination against women, people with disability and the poor; delayed execution of valid court orders; and people losing cases simply for lack of legal know how of filing a case even when it is clear that they have a genuine claim. Surely, victims of such malpractices will have little trust in the judiciary and allied institutions,” Mpango stated.

Earlier in her welcome address, the President, African Court for Human and Peoples’ Rights, Lady Justice Imani D. Aboud, noted that judicial independence was intimately connected to social behaviour and as such, could not be assessed or debated away from non-legal parametres such as sociology, psychology, idiosyncrasy and even religion.

“While these parametres belong more to the personal and individual sphere, one should not lose sight of the fact that even acting under the guise of the institutional body of a bench, courts of law are only the result of merged individual and personal agents influenced by the same parameters,” she said.

She urged justices to bear in mind that judicial dialogue could only make sense if national judiciaries become more effective to make complementarity of justice more pertinent to the protection of human rights in Africa.
  
The fifth African Judicial Dialogue was the last segment of the one-week event organised for the judiciaries by the African Court.

At the beginning of the week was the First Conference on the implementation and impact of the continental court.
  
The conference also had in attendance delegations from African member states including Nigeria, which was represented by a sitting judge of the African Court, Justice Stella I. Anukam; Executive Secretary, National Human Rights Commission, Anthony O. Ojukwu; former Executive Secretary of the commission, Prof. Bem Angwem, representatives of Foreign Affairs and Justice Ministries as well as members of the academia and civil society organisations.
 
African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights is the judicial arm of the African Union, established by Article 1 of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.