Kenya: Man Sues State Over High Court Judges' Diplomatic Passports

14 October 2019

A man has sued the State for withdrawing the diplomatic passports of High Court judges and denying them access to VIP lounges at airports.

Mr Jonathan Munene has sued Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang'i, Immigration Services director Alexander Muteshi and Attorney-General Paul Kihara Kariuki.

The Kenya Judges Welfare Association is listed as an interested party in the case.

INDEPENDENCE

Mr Munene wants a 2012 legal notice with the directive quashed and for the judges' benefit of diplomatic passports and use of VIP lounges to be restored by the High Court.

He argues the move is discriminatory, a threat to judicial independence and contrary to the law since all judges, regardless of the courts in which they serve, are of equal status.

"Unless this matter is heard and determined, the fabric of judicial independence, rule of law and general constitutional order will be subverted," said his lawyer Albert Murambi.

He added: "Judges of the High Court have, over time, been denied access to airport lounges unlike their superior courts counterparts."

The legal notice listed government officials entitled to diplomatic passports and use of VIP lounges but excluded High Court judges who enjoyed these benefits in the past.

At the time it was issued, officials in the Office of the President indicated that there had been complaints from the Kenya Airports Authority on an increase in the number of officials seeking access to the lounges.

The then Secretary to the Cabinet, Francis Kimemia, directed the then Transport Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho to ensure only those listed accessed the airport flight lane or VIP lounges.

BENEFICIARIES

The notice issued on June 15, 2012 listed the President, Deputy President and the Prime Minister, together with their family members, as the ones qualified to use the VIP lounges with the diplomatic passports.

Cabinet Secretaries, the Secretary to the Cabinet, Speakers of the National Assembly, the Attorney-General, the Director of Public Prosecution, Solicitor General and Auditor-General are exempted together with their spouses.

Others are the Controller of budget, Central Bank Governor, Clerk of the National Assembly, Clerk of the Kenya Defence Forces and service commanders as well as Also the Director-General of the National Intelligence Service, Inspector-General of police, governors, Aide-de Camp to the President and former Presidents, Prime Minister, Deputy President and Foreign Service Officer.

As for the Judiciary, the listing only spared the Chief Justice, Deputy Chief Justice, Supreme Court and Court of Appeal judges and their spouses.

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