East and Southern African Chief Justices say more must be done to strengthen the fair administration of justice and the role of the judiciary in safeguarding human rights in the digital age

East and Southern African Chief Justices say more must be done to strengthen the fair administration of justice and the role of the judiciary in safeguarding human rights in the digital age

From 21 to 23 April 2022, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) and American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative (ABAROLI) East Africa Programme, in collaboration with the Southern African Chief Justices Forum (SACJF), the Media Institute of Southern Africa, Africa Judges & Jurists Forum, Advancing Rights in Southern Africa and ICJ Kenya, held a regional symposium of Chief Justices in Nairobi Kenya, to discuss digital transformation of judiciaries and the critical role of the judiciary in protecting human rights online in East and Southern Africa.

Sri Lanka: newly adopted 20th Amendment to the Constitution is blow to the rule of law

Sri Lanka: newly adopted 20th Amendment to the Constitution is blow to the rule of law

The ICJ today condemned the adoption of amendments to the Sri Lankan Constitution, which serve to expand the powers of the President, while encroaching on the powers of the parliament and courts.

The 20th Amendment to the Constitution was passed into law on 22 October, with 156 of the 225 parliamentarians voting in favour of the amendment, after a mere two-day debate, overruling the Opposition’s request for at least four days of deliberation.

The ICJ noted that the Amendment undoes most of the reforms brought about by the 19th Amendment adopted only in 2015. Critically, it introduces judicial appointment procedures which are incompatible with principles of the justice by reintroducing the Parliamentary Council, consisting only of political actors.

That body serves to merely advise the President, regarding appointments to the judiciary and other key public institutions.

The 20th amendment gives the President sole and unfettered discretion to appoint all judges of the superior courts. Under international standards, appointments to the judiciary should not be vested solely with the executive.

Given the gravity of the constitutional changes, the ICJ expressed regret that the Government had suspended Standing Order 50 (2), which requires every bill to be referred to the relevant Sectoral Oversight Committee for consideration prior to being debated in parliament.

“It is appalling that Constitutional amendments with such far reaching consequences on the constitutional governance of the country were rushed through in such haste, especially at a time Sri Lanka battles with its largest COVID-19 outbreak to date,” said Ian Seiderman, ICJ’s Legal and Policy Director.

The ICJ welcomes the alteration made to some of the problematic provisions of the 20th Amendment Bill during Committee Stage, particularly in relation to presidential immunity and the time period within which the president can dissolve Parliament.

The ICJ nonetheless is particularly concerned with the decision of the Minister of Justice to introduce entirely new provisions at Committee Stage, particularly in relation to the increase of the number superior court judges. The Supreme Court Bench will be increased from 11 to 17 and Court of Appeal from 12 to 20. These substantive amendments were not part of the gazetted 20th Amendment bill, the provisions of which were challenged before the Supreme Court by as many as 39 petitioners.

“While an increased number of judges may reduce court delays and expedite the judicial process, introducing substantive amendments such as this at Committee Stage is problematic at multiple levels,” Seiderman added.

“Sneaking in substantial changes at the last stage of the legislative process where there is no opportunity for public comment or judicial review is not consistent with democratic processes under the rule of law.”

Zimbabwe: ICJ launches anti-corruption awareness campaign

Zimbabwe: ICJ launches anti-corruption awareness campaign

The ICJ in collaboration with the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), today launched a broad base anti-corruption awareness campaign in Harare.

The campaign was introduced by the President of Zimbabwe H.E. Cde Emmerson D. Mnangagwa and is expect to effectively run for 15 months.

It will harness different forms of media to spread awareness on the negative impact corruption has on the rule of law, human rights and development.

The anti-corruption awareness campaign is part of a broader longstanding rule of law initiative by the ICJ in collaboration with with stakeholders in the justice sector, to strengthen the rule of law for the protection and promotion of human rights for all, including women and persons from marginalized or disadvantaged groups.

Corruption undermines the rule of law by impeding access to justice through diversions of public resources for private gain.

As such the ICJ, through the support of the EU, is working towards increased transparency and integrity in the justice delivery system in order to increase access to justice for all.

“Zimbabwe has no option but to fight corruption if it is to be a just, peaceful and successful developmental state,” said Arnold Tsunga, ICJ’s Africa Regional Director.

“The reconstituted ZACC has demonstrated a strong desire to pursue its mandate with renewed commitment from other stakeholders in the justice delivery chain,” he added.

The campaign is not undertaken in isolation. It builds on other initiatives to combat corruption under this programme, which include the establishment of an anti-corruption court, training of personnel for the court and various research initiatives.

The campaign seeks to support the national efforts against corruption, and sensitize the public on the negative effects of corruption in society.

It will promote awareness on how to report corrupt practices, how to avoid corrupt practices and the impact of corruption on the public interest.

The campaign acknowledges that different sections of the population engage with media in varying manners. As such it utilises a wide array of approaches designed to build the optimism of the people of Zimbabwe to take an active role in efforts to combat corruption at every level of society.

The campaign launch was attended by justice sector actors, civil society representatives, business representatives and the diplomatic.


Arnold Tsunga, Director of the Africa Regional Programme, International Commission of Jurists C: +263 77 728 3248, E: arnold.tsunga(a)icj.org


Guatemala: Supreme Court of Justice undermines the rule of law

Guatemala: Supreme Court of Justice undermines the rule of law

The Supreme Court’s election of a person who is not suitable for the position of substitute judge on the Constitutional Court is deeply concerning for the sound administration of justice and the effective application of the rule of law, the ICJ said today.

Ramon Cadena, the Director of the Central American office of the ICJ added: “with this election, the SCJ has contributed to deepening the crisis in the judicial system and it will affect the little credibility that the Guatemalan people still retain in the justice system.”

The position of substitute judge on the Constitutional Court (CC) had become vacant when the former substitute judge was appointed Attorney General by the President, Jimmy Morales.

The eight judges of the SCJ who voted in favour of the substitute judge of the CC did not comply with international norms and standards on the administration of justice.

The Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary state that “Persons selected for judicial office shall be individuals of integrity and ability with appropriate training or qualifications in law.”

The ICJ has been able to verify that the SCJ judges elected a person who:

  • in 2010 was dismissed as Attorney General by the CC shortly after assuming office because the person was deemed not suitable;
  • openly opposes the International Commission against Corruption and Impunity (ICCIG) despite the good work that the Commission undertakes to address corruption and impunity;
  • in 2010, after assuming the office of Attorney General was accused of intervening in cases concerning corruption and impunity and impairing evidence in these cases.

The ICJ recalls that the CC stated that the acts carried out by Congress on 11 September 2017 were susceptible of causing “irreparable harm to the justice system”.

The ICJ considers that the election by the SCJ of the substitute judge to the CC should also be considered an act of irreparable harm to the justice system.

The ICJ therefore urges the CC to once again protect the rule of law in Guatemala.

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