Judges’ plight worries Commonwealth legal association


The Commonwealth Magistrates’ and Judges’ Association (CMJA) has expressed concern about the processes put in place to probe the suspended judges of the High Court of Botswana.

The CMJA recently issued a statement on the setting up of a tribunal to investigate misconduct allegations against judges Key Dingake, Modiri Letsididi, Mercy Garakwe and Ranier Busang.

At its general assembly last month, the CMJA said the setting up of a tribunal must be consistent with the rule of law and the Constitutional safeguards that are accorded to everyone in the country concerned.

“The judges, like other members of society, may not be subjected to violations of their fundamental human rights no matter what the charges are against them,” reads the CMJA statement. “The existence of an independent and impartial judiciary is one of the cardinal features of any country governed by the rule of law. By virtue of its membership of the Commonwealth, Botswana is committed to the shared fundamental values and principles of the Commonwealth, at the core of which is a shared belief in, and adherence to, democratic principles including an independent and impartial judiciary.”

It adds that any measure, which is capable of being seen as eroding the independence and impartiality of the judiciary, or the fundamental rights that they are entitled to as citizens or residents of Botswana is a matter of serious concern.

According to the statement, the Commonwealth (Latimer House) principles on the accountability of and the relationship between the three branches of government (2003) states that disciplinary proceedings which might lead to the removal of a judicial officer should include appropriate safeguards to ensure fairness. Such a judicial officer has the right to be fully informed of all charges, to be represented at a hearing, to make a full defence and to be judged by an independent and impartial tribunal.

The association urges the respect for the Constitution in relation to removal of senior judges as well as the Commonwealth fundamental values which Botswana have agreed to abide by.

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