East African Court of Justice Arusha, 30th May, 2017: The Chief Justice of the Republic of Uganda, Justice Bart Katureebe officially opened the East African Court of Justice (EACJ) mid-year plenary and strategic plan meeting which set off in Entebbe, Uganda.
His Lordship represented by the Honourable Justice Eldad D. Mwangusya, judge of the Supreme Court Uganda, said that decentralization of the operations in the East African Court of Justice to each Member State is a noble idea and a grand milestone in terms of enhancing access to justice to the citizens of the region. “I therefore congratulate the Court on realizing the objective of bringing regional justice closer to the East Africans, Uganda in particular”
His Lordship further said that, he is reliably informed that towards the end of the negotiations of the Common Market Protocol, the EACJ was already in the Process of preparing its 5-year Strategic Plan 2011/15, among the main strategic issues identified was the need to improve the Court’s visibility in the Partner States.
He added that the establishment of the sub-registries was identified as one of the ways the existence and presence of the EACJ would be better felt at Partner States level and “I believe this will remain a focal point in the Court’s future strategic planning and management and that the same will be fully utilized.” The Chief Justice stated.
Justice Mwangusya, also added that, as a regional court, the EACJ is expected to offer leadership, not only in terms of jurisprudence but also in innovative practices. I am therefore glad to learn of the technological achievements that have been realized by the Court, I am aware the Court introduced a case management and recording system which is already operational.” He noted. In the Chief Justice’s speech further said that, the Court sub-registries located in the Member States can now file and upload cases online where the Registrar and other staff in Arusha can have access and take them through the process from initiation to disposal electronically.
In addition, His Lordship, the Chief Justice went ahead and acknowledged the signing of the Protocol on extension of the jurisdiction of the East African Court of Justice to matters of trade and investment. That this development came at a time when EAC Member States were in process of implementing the Customs Union and the Common Market Protocols. That the implementation will definitely give rise to disputes among traders and investors in the region. He also added that once the Protocol is ratified by the Partner States, the citizens will be able to file cases concerning trade and investment disputes across the region and this will make the Court not only busier but also more relevant to the entire citizenry in the region.
The Chief Justice Hon. Bert Katurebe, emphasized on the good co-operation between the EACJ and the Judiciary of Uganda. “We have been sharing some of our Judges with the Court, at the moment, we have 2 of our Judges, Justice Geoffrey Kiryabwire of the Appellte Division and Justice Monica Mugenyi Principal Judge of the First Instance Division, I wish to appreciate the two Judges for carrying our flag high” His Lordship stated. He also went further and pointed out the other areas for further co-operation of the Court, which they might exploit, training, judicial exchange and benchmarking are areas for greater co-operation. He also emphasized that, they hope to deepen the co-operation with the Court in technical and legal aspects such as the use of information technology in Court processes and administration, prompt sharing of court decisions and jurisprudence, research, among others.
His Lordship, strongly pointed out that, the participation by the Ugandan judiciary in the EACJ’s programs will significantly add to ideas that contribute to the harmonization of their laws and procedures towards the uniform dispensation of justice in the region and greater integration. That this is in line with the requirement in Article 126 of the Treaty which states that; “In order to promote the achievement of the objective of the Community set out in Article 5, the Partner States shall encourage the standardization of the judgements of Courts within the Community.
Finally, the Chief Justice’ s representative, concluded by re-affirming their commitment to offering further support to the activities of the EACJ as may be required and in line with the integration agenda.
The President of the Court, Justice Dr. Emmanuel Ugirashebuja also in his opening remarks, pointed out that, the Judicial branch is an essential element of the infrastructure of the East African Society. Like most infrastructure projects, any judiciary requires continual maintenance, upkeep and renovation. He also added that, the Judicial branch, just like any other branch, is in a constant evolutionary mode, it develops over time influenced by events by social and political change and in turn its development yield further transformation. Rules and practices change, and in changing, they change themselves and us. That It is for this reason that we deemed it necessary to organize this second retreat with a view of taking stock of what has happened and charting the way forward in the coming years.
His Lordship further said that, the Judiciary of Uganda has over years undergone a tremendous transformation. “We are grateful that we will share the experiences of Uganda. I am also very sure that we will draw a lot of lessons and inspirations in the experiences” the Court’s President expressed. He again added that the Interdependence of our respective judiciaries require our greater consciousness to collaborate because as he recently pointed out in a colloquium organized by the Mechanism for the International Criminal Tribunal, more is demanded of them Judges in their societies and in the East African Community of which are part. “We have common vested interests in each other’s success”. That initiatives such as this retreat and insights from national judiciaries in all partner states of East African Community help us all contributed to that success.
Justice Ugirashebuja again said that, it is important to note that even though the Court may draw certain lessons from national jurisdictions such as Uganda, the East African Court of Justice can only draw those lessons which can be applicable to the circumstances the Court finds itself in. That the East African Court of Justice is a treaty-based court established by the EAC partner states and thus does not enjoy the strong protections enjoyed by National Judiciaries entrenched in constitutions. Needless, to recount the well-known scenario of how the Court underwent significant changes by a stroke of a pen after the ruling in the landmark case of Anyang Nyong.
He finally said that the developments have occurred which justify the need for this meeting. First, the East African Legislative Assembly passed the EACJ Administration of Justice Bill. That It is yet to be assented to by the Partner States of the EAC; the Council of Ministers granted financial and administrative autonomy of the Court, details of which the Court Judges will discuss in this Plenary. Second, the Court has an elaborate case management system which has not been utilized to its full capacity. He emphasized that, It is generally recognized that maintaining court files on paper is outmoded. That IT could be used more extensively and effectively to improve process in this era of communication is indisputable. Third, that the first Strategic Plan of the Court came to an end and they are in the process of developing a second Strategic Plan. He therefore added that all these changes as well as best practices found in other international jurisdictions as well as national jurisdiction will enrich their discussions in this meeting.
The President concluded by saying that Justice is central to the ongoing prosperity and fairness of our democratic society. That for this reason, it is important that the Judiciary is actively involved in leading and shaping the Justice system, in concert with other stakeholders.
In attendance were all the Judges of the EACJ, the Registrar, Deputy and other support Staff of the Court.
About the EACJ
The East African Court of Justice (EACJ or ‘the Court’), is one of the organs of the East African Community established under Article 9 of the Treaty for the Establishment of the East African Community. Established in November 2001, the Court’s major responsibility is to ensure the adherence to law in the interpretation and application of and compliance with the EAC Treaty.
Arusha is the temporary seat of the Court until the Summit determines its permanent seat. The Court’s sub-registries are located in the respective National Courts in the Partner States.
For more information please contact:
Yufnalis Okubo, Registrar, East African Court of Justice. Tel: 255-27-2162149
East African Court of Justice Arusha, Tanzania http://www.eacj.org