ICJ demands fair hearings for judges accused of corruption

Aaron RungeraThe ICJ urges the Government of Kenya to ensure that all proceedings against judges and magistrates who have been accused of corruption are conducted according to fair trial standards.

Amidst allegations of a high level of corruption in the judiciary, High Court Judge Aaron Ringera (photo) chaired an internal committee comprised of two judges and two magistrates to investigate the matter. The committee produced the so-called Ringera Report, which determined that six judges in the Court of Appeal, 17 in the High Court and 82 magistrates had been involved in acts of corruption. It appears that none of the judges and magistrates had the chance to be heard by the committee prior to the issuance of the Report.

The 23 judges were then suspended with immediate effect and the magistrates’ fate remains unclear. Furthermore, the names and photographs of the accused judges and magistrates have been made public, generating calls for their resignation from different quarters. Given the magnitude of the committee’s findings and the grave consequences for the judges and magistrates who have been identified as corrupt, the absence of any hearing constitutes a violation of international standards.

After the Report was released and the judges were suspended, the President of Kenya created two tribunals to try the High Court and Court of Appeals judges, respectively. The Judicial Services Commission will hear the magistrates’ cases.

“While corruption is undoubtedly one of the biggest obstacles to the proper functioning of an independent judiciary, the State must at all times respect the rule of law and ensure that the judges and magistrates identified in the Ringera report receive a fair hearing”, said Linda Besharaty-Movaed, Legal Advisor of the ICJ. “Suspending judges and publishing their photographs in newspapers prior to any hearing not only violates their rights, but also diminishes the dignity of the judiciary as a whole.”

The Kenyan Government is reportedly in the process of preparing a list of judges to replace those who have been accused.

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