THE Principal Judge, Dr Ferdinand Wambali, has called for effective justice system, major reforms and modernisation of judicial services within national judiciaries in order to meet the expectations of people in the African continent.
In his address while opening the three-day "Third African Judicial Dialogue" here yesterday, Dr Wambali pointed out that an effective justice system that interprets and applies the law fairly, impartially and without undue delay was fundamental to citizens' rights and a well functioning economy.
"Our respective judiciaries therefore cannot do better in improving effective justice without increasingly engaging with the citizens and other court users to gain more insights on what should be done to serve the society better," he said.
The principal judge explained at the meeting that brought together Chief Justices and Presidents of Supreme and Constitutional Courts from the 55 AU Member States that it was important to understand that quality, independence and efficiency were key components for an effective justice system.
"Indeed, access to effective justice system is an essential right which must be at the foundation of democracy recognised by constitutional traditions. Nobody can deny the fact that everyone is entitled to a fair and public hearing within a reasonable time by an independent and impartial organ," he said.
According to him, in order to improve efficiency of judiciaries, there was need to undertake reforms to the justice system, which are not isolated and geared towards piecemeal solutions. He stressed that such reforms are to take more comprehensive approach for more uniform results.
On modernisation of judicial services, Dr Wambali told 150 delegates from Africa Union Member States that to cope with current developments in the electronic age, courts should streamline virtually all their judicial and administrative process through new information communication and storage technology.
"We cannot deny the fact that we live in a very fast moving world, where things change by seconds, and the law and justice must keep pace with the changing times. I see this Dialogue has laid emphasis on the use of technology in justice delivery," he said.
The principal judge, therefore, expressed the need to explore modern technology to bring justice quicker and closer to the people, who should be able to file cases without leaving their places of abode and follow developments on their cases in the same manner.
President of the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights (AfCHPR) Justice Sylvain Oré, said the dialogue under the theme "Improving Judicial Efficiency in Africa" is set to explore ways of enhancing judicial efficiency in the continent, but was quick to add that use of new technology would improve efficiency.
He stressed that it would be difficult to deliver quality and timely justice without having modern technology, and that delivery of justice within judiciaries was fundamental rights not only at individual level, but also on improvements of democracy, good governance, rule of law and human rights protection.
Justice Oré said that there was need for regional and national courts to bridge the gap among them, increase interactions and harmonisation of available laws in order to improve efficiency. The president pointed out that sharing jurisprudence was also an important factor towards realisation of such goal.
The representative of the National Judiciary, Chief Justice of the Republic of Mozambique, Ms Mateus Saize, took a critical eye on inadequate manpower and facilities in justice service delivery, pointing out that the number of magistrates appointed to oversee judicial functions was not proportional with the population.
She said that the low number of magistrates compared to the population was a major impediment in dispensation of justice. She further explained that poor working conditions and lack of hi-tech working tools and motivations have negative impacts in case managements.
The three-day meeting is expected to provide an important forum for Africa's top judiciary officials to exchange experiences on the on-going continental judicial reforms, trends on human rights jurisprudence, continuing judicial education and management of judicial institutions on the continent.