Sub-registries of the East African Court of Justice (EACJ) are scheduled to open in June this year, according to the EACJ President Justice Harold Nsekela.
He revealed this here yesterday when speaking to a delegation of Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS) – a German political foundation.
The German delegation to the regional court was led by Frank Spengler, deputy head of the Department for International Cooperation and Prof Christian Roschmann, head of the Rule of Law Program for sub-Saharan Africa for KAS and partner of EACJ.
Justice Nsekela said that the idea behind establishing sub-registries in partner states was meant to take judicial services closer to the East African people. “It will now be easier to file cases at the court through the sub-registries within the Partner States, instead of having to travel to Arusha for the same,” he said.
He commended chief justices from the five East African Community (EAC) Partner States – Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi – for providing offices to be used as sub-registries in their respective countries.
“This is a very commendable initiative,” he said, adding that the move was meant to reduce unnecessary costs for people who want to file cases at the regional court, which currently has it headquarters in Arusha.
Interviews for clerks who will be employed as sub-registers had already been conducted in all member countries, he informed.
Citing some challenges facing the Court, Justice Nsekela said that for years the EACJ has been seeking permanent offices for a more expeditious dispensation of justice. “Currently, judges are operating in difficult environments when handling cases and this is a major hindrance to an efficient administration of justice by the court,” he said.
Nsekela said that the fact that the EACJ judges were based in their home countries meant that coordination was difficult and affected consistency. It also means that the judges have divided attention between national and community affairs.
“This is not good for dispensation of justice at the regional level for dispute resolution in the community,” he said, appealing to the EAC Council of Ministers to intervene for the purpose of sending at least five judges of the court in Arusha to help cope with the rising number of cases before the court.
He observed that the current situation where judges serving at the regional court work there for only one week every month means that there are delays in deciding cases that come before them.
However, Justice Nsekela was optimistic that some measures being taken by the regional bloc on the matter, whereby the EACJ President and the Principal Judge would now be permanently relocated to Arusha, would help the Court a great deal in discharging its duties efficiently.
The decision, which would be effected from July this year, was made by the EAC Council of Ministers, the policy organ of the Community. "The move is expected to positively impact the EACJ in the execution of its mandate," he added.
Additionally, he said the Court still faced a number of challenges such as limited jurisdiction due to which it can’t handle matters on human rights as well as the Court's ad-hoc nature, which he said, was time consuming and caused lots of unnecessary delays in delivering justice.
Justice Nsekela noted that educating East Africans about the Court and its operations would increase the EACJ's visibility and that sustainability of the sensitisation efforts would enhance citizens' confidence especially amongst business people in the regional court's ability to dispense justice and protect their rights.
The EACJ president also briefed the delegation on the structure, operations, challenges and achievements of the Court, which is based in Arusha alongside the EAC headquarters.
He informed the delegation that the Court was the vehicle of the Community in building jurisprudence and that in this regard it had launched a five-year strategic plan based upon which the Court has been publicising itself in the EAC Partner States.
Prof Christian Roschmann, promised that KAS would continue working with the regional court in improving its duties.
He commended the court for its role in executing its duties, saying it will remain an icon in Africa and the world at large.