3 February 2019

Mozambique: Government Committed to Independent Judiciary, Says PM

Maputo — Mozambican Prime Minister Carlos Agostinho do Rosario on Friday reiterated the commitment of the Mozambican government to continue improving the country's judicial system, including implementation of "a model of financial independence".

Speaking in Maputo at the ceremony opening the 2019 judicial year, Rosario said the government is determined "to deepen and consolidate the principle of the separation of powers, and specifically the autonomy and independence of the judiciary".

The Prime Minister, who was representing President Filipe Nyusi, stressed that the government "hopes to contribute to an ever more efficient judicial system, closer to citizens".

The ceremony was held under the theme "40 years of judicial organisation in Mozambique: Past, Present and Future", and Rosario declared 'The historical value of these four decades should serve as an inspiration for continual improvement in defining the policies and strategies for developing this sector".

In defining the guiding instruments of the judicial sector, the main concerns of Mozambican society - namely that the justice system should be efficient, fair and quick - must always be borne in mind, he stressed.

The President of the Supreme Court, Adelino Muchanga, told the gathering that 161,594 court cases came to their end in 2018. Of these, 57 per cent were decided by district courts, 42 per cent by provincial courts, and one per cent by the appeal courts and by the Supreme Court itself.

He claimed that over the 40 years of the Mozambican judicial system, "we have grown", but the current challenges "demand an attentive eye from all stakeholders".

"We must have the courage to innovate and to invest seriously in justice, creating acceptable human conditions", said Muchanga. The next stage was to ensure conditions that would allow court proceedings to be recorded, rather than the current laborious procedure of court stenographers typing out everything that is said.

The meeting came alive with the intervention of the chairperson of the Mozambique Bar Association (OAM), Flavio Menete, who was the only speaker to denounce specific abuses, and warned that the judicial system had fallen into discredit. He was thus the only speaker who was repeatedly interrupted with applause.

He attacked illegal and arbitrary detentions, notably that of journalist Amade Abubacar in the northern province of Cabo Delgado and warned that the curfew decreed last week by the mayor of the Cabo Delgado town of Mocimboa da Praia is entirely illegal.

Menete denounced the police for their violation of citizen's rights, most recently their attempt to prevent people from wearing t-shirts bearing the slogan "I'm not paying hidden debts". He called on the police to respect the freedom of expression enshrined in Mozambican constitution.

He recalled that in a similar ceremony a year ago he had warned that the Mozambican legal system risked falling into "total discredit" if no measures were taken against people involved in the scandal of the hidden debts. That prophecy has come true: "the discredit is today a sad reality", said Menete, "with obvious signs that we are losing control of the situation and are trying to resort to indefensible measures".

Menete said the OAM will do all in its power to ensure that the Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, "reconsiders its position concerning the legalization of unconstitutional debts"

He promised that the OAM will mobilize opinion outside the country "to explore the possibility that Mozambicans will not be obliged to pay debts that are criminal in origin"

Menete also demanded that the attorney general should make public the names of all suspects in the criminal proceedings arising from the illegal debts. To date the only arrest warrant issued has been for former finance minister Manuel Chang, who is currently under police custody in South Africa.

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