BUJUMBURA July 6th (ABP) – “The working conditions of magistrates are among the characteristics of an independent judicial system. These conditions must include job security and fairly general but reasonable salaries to protect these magistrates against all forms of temptation, including corruption”.
These are the words delivered by Me Salvator Minani, legal representative of “Action for Justice and Equity in Burundi” (AJEBU-GENDERINGO), during a statement he released on Thursday, June 30, 2022 on the eve of the celebration of the 60th anniversary of Burundi’s independence.
According to Me Minani, it is also important that judges remain respected and appreciated by the whole society. Therefore, he added, they in turn must be beyond suspicion and morality. Magistrates should be appointed from people who have an established reputation in society and who are well enough placed so that they cannot be subject to corruption. An independent judiciary requires that there is no political influence in the appointment of judges and that there is protection against unfair dismissal.
Regarding the inventory of the independence of the Burundian judiciary, Me Minani indicates that the judiciary is a vulnerable institution in all respects. He specified that to be less dependent, the judiciary should benefit from an autonomous budget, managed by its own structures, with sufficient financial resources to deal with the vast material and logistical needs for the proper functioning of the judicial body.
According to him, the judiciary is a body of magistrates threatened by precariousness. The nobility of the mission entrusted to the magistrate, contrasts singularly with the derisory remuneration from which he/she benefits and which is placed too far below that of the two other powers, in this case the executive and the legislative ones, he deplored. As a result, he continued to say, the existential pressure put on the magistrate on a daily basis ends up in the latter giving in to corruption, failing to throw in the towel and get hired elsewhere.
Me Minani pointed out, through that statement, that an “independent judicial system depends largely on independent judges, that is to say, judges who are prepared to resist any personal pressure that could be exerted from all sides to influence their decisions. Thus, he issues a series of recommendations, namely the reform of the bylaw of magistrates, the reform of the Superior Council of the Judiciary (CSM), the amendment of the salary and allowance grids of judicial personnel. He also mentions the financial independence of the judiciary and the existence of magistrates who assert themselves and feel their independence.
Concerning the first recommendation, for example, he proposes that the promotion of judges should be based on objective criteria such as skills, moral integrity and experience. The professional qualities and merits of a magistrate must be ascertained through objective assessments, carried out regularly by an independent body, he added. On the same point, he proposes the creation of a higher school for the judiciary to professionally train the future practicing magistrate of law in the service of the nation and to organize his/her selection to be admitted to the office of magistrate, after an appropriate test.
Concerning the second recommendation, he proposes by way of illustration that the superior council of the judiciary should be chaired by the chief justice and not by a member of the executive power. This can be represented but in a less dominant way. It also proposes that the Superior Council of the Judiciary should be provided with sufficient financial means to be able to fulfill its missions without major difficulties.