The ICJ today called for the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (“African Commission”) to establish a special mechanism for the protection and promotion of the independence of judges and lawyers in Africa.
The ICJ made the call in a statement during the public session of the 61st Ordinary Session of the African Commission in Banjul.
The call comes amidst growing threats to the independence of justice in Africa.
In African Union (AU) Member states across the continent, judicial officers and legal practitioners have been targeted for violence and intimidation, or unjustified interference or sanctions.
Recent cases include Burundi, Botswana, Egypt, Lesotho, Libya, Kenya, Swaziland, Zambia, the DRC, Cameroon and Zimbabwe.
The frequency and seriousness of such incidents prompted the ICJ working with the Africa Judges and Jurists Forum to convene a round table meeting in Harare in 2016 to discuss practical steps that could be adopted to minimize the plight of jurists in distress.
The Harare meeting identified the need for a special mechanism for the protection and promotion of judicial independence in Africa, similar to the existing United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers.
“It is chilling when a judge is shot in Lubumbashi in the DRC, or a deputy chief justice’s security personnel and driver is shot in Nairobi, Kenya ahead of an important case, or the offices of the Law Association are besieged by militias in Lusaka, Zambia. These are real cases,” said Arnold Tsunga ICJ’s Africa Regional Director.
“An independent, impartial, competent and accountable judiciary and independent and free legal profession are pre-requisites for effective protection of human rights and entrenchment of the rule of law in Africa,” he added.
The ICJ noted that the African Commission have already set out an excellent framework of standards to guarantee independence of the judiciary and access to justice in Africa in the 2003 Principles and Guidelines on the Right to a Fair Trial and Legal Assistance in Africa.
What is needed now is to put in place machinery for their implementation.
The Commission must now to take steps towards establishing a special mechanism for the protection and promotion of judicial independence, including the appointment of a Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, and establishing a Working Group on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers.
Arnold Tsunga, Director of ICJ’s Africa Regional Programme, t: +27716405926, e: arnold.tsunga(a)icj.org
Banjul- Independence Judges and Lawyers-Advocacy-2017-ENG (Statement in English, pdf)AdvocacyNewsWeb stories