Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) acknowledge that the Judiciary is a key pillar towards realising human rights, democracy, and the rule of law. Within our respective mandates, we continue to play an important role in enhancing judicial reforms and strengthening the administration of justice, promoting and protecting the independence, integrity, and legitimacy of the Judiciary.
In this regard, as a culmination of the commemoration of the International Day of Democracy, a section of CSOs held a virtual meeting with the Chief Justice and President of the Supreme Court, Hon. Lady Justice Martha Koome, on September 17, 2021, to discuss areas of collaboration and contribution towards realizing the Chief Justice's vision of "Social Transformation through Access to Justice."
The meeting was attended by the Kenyan Section of the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ Kenya), International Justice Mission Kenya (IJM Kenya), Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC), Amnesty International Kenya, Wangu Kanja Foundation, Centre for Rights Education and Awareness (CREAW), and Transparency International - Kenya. Key issues and proposals raised by the CSOs include:
- The transfer and promotion of judges and related adverse effects on part-heard matters;
- Support by CSOs in capacity building and modalities for engaging with the Judiciary Training Institute (JTI);
- A proposal for the Chief Justice to hold a bi-annual meeting with CSOs involved in championing access to and administration of justice for vulnerable and marginalised groups;
- The need to have representatives of Community Justice Centers in Court User Committees to further enhance access to justice for vulnerable communities;
- Concerns over rising cases of gender-based violence, sexual offences, police abuse of power, extrajudicial killings, and enforced disappearances as we head into an election year. Further, CSOs share a proposal for the Chief Justice to consider having specialised courts to speed up the resolution of such cases;
- CSO's support to the Judiciary in conducting public awareness campaigns on the Judiciary e-filing system by using various forms of media to sensitise users of the system on its functions;
- Concerns over increasing threats and attacks on the Judiciary and judicial officers as well as CSOs support to counteract the attacks and strengthen judicial independence, especially in light of the 2022 general election;
- Case backlog, emphasising strategies to expedite the hearing and determination of Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes (ACEC) cases, particularly those involving public officers likely to contest in the 2022 general election.
The Honourable Chief Justice acknowledged civil society's role in promoting access to justice and the rule of law. She welcomed further engagement with civil society through open and constructive dialogue while maintaining judicial independence.
Through increased funding, the Chief Justice indicated that the Judiciary would prioritise efficiency through expeditious disposal of cases and elimination of backlog, including a special focus on anti-corruption cases and those on extrajudicial executions and sexual and gender-based violence.
She highlighted the intentions of the Judiciary to enhance inter-agency and inter-institutional collaboration between the Judiciary and other arms of government and non-government stakeholders, to increase and retain judicial capacity and independence in anticipation of the 2022 general elections.
Further, the Chief Justice affirmed the Judiciary's plans to leverage policy organs on judicial funding to ensure efficiency, prioritise training and capacity building. Additionally, the Judiciary will build the capacity of judicial officers on targeted emergent and thematic issues through collaboration between stakeholders judicial training institute.
Finally, Lady Justice Martha Koome noted that through consultation and public participation, the Judiciary would strengthen Court Users' Committees (CUCs) to increase access to justice by vulnerable members of the public and marginalised groups/communities. She affirmed her vision to maximise the potential of CUCs to realise the recently launched vision for social justice to create courts as centres of excellence that innovate suitable unique interventions to address peculiar needs.
To this end, Civil Society Organisations pledge continued support to the Honourable Chief Justice in implementing her vision for the Judiciary and championing judicial independence and the rule of law. We encourage the Chief Justice to remain steadfast and true to her oath of office in protecting and defending the Constitution of Kenya, 2010.
Dated, 17th day of September 2021.
Elsy C. Sainna
Executive Director, ICJ Kenya
On behalf of other Civil Society Organisations;
1. Benson Shamala - International Justice Mission - Kenya
2. Irungu Houghton - Amnesty International Kenya
3. Davis Malombe – Kenya Human Rights Commission
4. Wangechi Wachira - Centre for Rights Education and Awareness - Kenya
5. Wangu Kanja - Wangu Kanja Foundation
6. Sheila Masinde – Transparency International - Kenya