Judiciary not free, says Odoki


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ByaseL

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The Chief Justice, Benjamin Odoki, on Friday decried the interference by African governments on the independence of the Judiciary, noting that the intrusion has been pronounced in the state’s refusal to obey and enforce the decisions of courts, open attacks on them and storming of the High Court like it happened in March 2005.

Mr Odoki was speaking at the annual Southern African Chief Justices Forum in Kampala that saw a total of 11 chief justices and two deputy chief justices attending the forum.
“Most judiciary both in Africa and beyond face challenges to their independence because their independence on the paper has not been translated into real independence in practice,” said Mr Odoki.

He referred to several surveys that rank selected countries on judiciary independence by both the World Bank and the World Economic Forum, in which African countries consistently fare worst than their counterparts in the northern hemisphere.

“Although it must be said that even in developed democracies, the pressures on the Executive to respond to new threats such as terrorism, economic down turns, pressing needs to adopt a liberal or conservative approach to national issues such as abortion and control of guns have seen especially the Executive interfering with the space of the Judiciary,” said Mr Odoki.

The Chief Justice also pondered on whether the Judiciary, which is the cornerstone of the rule of law and the basis of economic growth in most countries is still a valid consideration in Africa.

“In Africa, interference in the Judiciary space has been most pronounced in the state refusing to obey and enforce decisions of the court, open attacks on the Judiciary, storming of the judiciary like it happened in Uganda in 2005, poor facilitation of the judiciary and delay to appoint judges,” Justice Odoki noted.

Challenges such as failure by the Executive to provide an adequate working environment for judicial staff, poor pay and relegating the Judiciary among the second or third best priorities of government were pointed out by Mr Odoki.
 

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