Transformation Resource Centre (TRC) this week strongly defended the Judiciary calling for the amendment of the Judicial Service Commission Act.
“The government should establish an Act of Parliament that will preserve the Judicial Service Commission from undue of political influence of executive branch, particularly the Prime Minister,” TRC Human Rights Officer; Moeketsi Lepeli said.
He added that the Act should stipulate the commission’s mandate to include recruitment and hiring of all judicial officers from Magistrate Court up to the Appeal Court.
“The Act should have an annual budget ratio that must be allocated to judiciary and give the Commission the power to monitor the conduct of all judicial officers,” he stressed.
He noted that the judiciary crisis escalated into vicious crisis because of the appointment and removal of Chief Justices and Presidents of Court of Appeal previously.
“There is no process of scrutiny to assess competencies of appointed judges, and as a result some of them could easily become political proxies of the Prime Minister who is the appointing authority.
“Recently, a shocking judgement has been delivered which nullified the ABC executive committee elections yet the Acting Chief Justice had refused to hand down the judgement in four months in a similar case claiming protesters had insulted her. She has since then been labelled ABC ally allegedly supporting the Prime Minister’s camp. She has been embroiled in controversy through her judgements which always favoured the ruling ABC which however always overturned by the Appeal Court which has foreign Judges. This consistent overturning of the ACJ’s judgements raises serious concerns and generates questions on the High Court by the general public, while the Court of Appeal became highly popular.
“The ACJ being labelled the ally of the ABC’s Prime Minister’s Camp is shocking and the truth is unknown to us, and the TRC does conclude that the conduct of the Acting Chief Justice is unbecoming of a Judge of her calibre, and indeed soils the integrity of the judiciary.”
The Centre also noted with concern government’s lack of commitment in addressing issues raised by magistrates.
“Their grievances were based amongst others on the poor working conditions, personal security and remuneration which the government is failing to address,” Lepeli said.
Lepeli further said recently the Appeal Court was said to lack financial resources to hold its April sessions.
“This is why they allowed the High Court through the Acting Chief Justice to go on unchecked through questionable judgements.
“Despite the fact that the Court of Appeal has begun its session this Monday after the impasse was resolved, its closure impacted negatively on the rights of litigants and indeed administration of justice in Lesotho,” he stressed.
He further urged the ruling party’s factions to refrain from negative utterance against the ACJ.
“We urge all the ABC factions led by the newly elected executive committee to refrain from irresponsible utterances of attacks on the Acting Chief Justice as that will create anarchy in the already prevailing crisis. The government must commit itself to addressing issues of magistrates to ensure proper administration of justice in Lesotho and protection of human rights,” he noted.