Judiciary Subject To Rule Of Law – ICJ
THE International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) says judicial officers, as servants of the people, are subject to the rule of law and should carry out their functions in accordance with the law.
The ICJ said this in a statement released yesterday following its completion of a mission to Zambia in the case of the suspension of three judges.
Supreme Court Judge, Philip Musonda and High Court judges, Charles Kajimanga and Nigel Mutuna were suspended last month and a tribunal has since been appointed to probe their alleged misconduct.
The ICJ said it believed that judicial officers were, like all other institutions of the State, subject to the law, the rule of law in particular, and should carry out their judicial functions in line with the law.
The ICJ also hoped that the due process and constitutional guarantees would be followed to ensure that the process was consistent with fairness and that it was not used to undermine the independence of the Judiciary in Zambia, as has been the case in other jurisdictions within the region.
The institution also observed that it was important for any judiciary to depict qualities of independence and accountability in the administration of justice.
Following the suspension of the judges and concerns about the relations between the Judiciary and the Executive, the ICJ sent a fact-finding mission to Zambia between May 16 and 18, 2012 to understand the circumstances leading to President Michael Sata’s decision, the forces at play and the impact of this development on the independence of the judiciary.
The ICJ delegation met various stakeholders and other persons interested in the administration of justice.
The ICJ team that comprised Justice Moses Chinhengo, formerly of the High Courts of Zimbabwe and Botswana and ICJ commissioner, as head of the delegation; Justice Qinisile Mabuza of the High Court of Swaziland; Justice Thomas Masuku, formerly of the High Courts of Botswana and Swaziland, member of Advisory Group – Centre for Independence of Judges and Lawyers (CIJL) and interim coordinator of the African Judges Forum (AJF); Thulani Maseko, a human rights lawyer and ICJ consultant, and Arnold Tsunga, the Africa director of the ICJ Africa Programme.
The ICJ further said the matter had been handled in a manner that had created potential for a serious strain in relations between the Judiciary, the Legal Profession and the Executive in a manner that did not augur well for judicial independence and harmony in the administration of justice.
The matter had also provided an opportunity for public expressions on the state of the administration of justice in the country in a way that had placed the judicial institution into public scrutiny, if not potentially into disrepute.
“While such scrutiny is not a problem, the readiness and enthusiasm with which some leaders in Government have commented on this development is of concern.”
“The ICJ reiterates that it is important for any judiciary to depict qualities of independence and accountability in the administration of justice. While the ICJ may not be opposed to legitimate expression of opinion on judicial accountability, such expression must have regard to due process requirements of international and municipal principles on judicial independence and the rule of law.
The ICJ has since encouraged all those involved to exercise restraint as the process unfolded to avoid a situation where the public felt that there was political encouragement to attack the judicial organ or the judiciary was forced to invoke contempt proceedings in a manner that may escalate the situation.