Legal groups told to back off!

Legal groups told to back off!

MASERU – THE government has told international organisations rallying behind Chief Justice Nthomeng Majara to back off.
In a strongly worded statement released on Tuesday, the government accused the organisations of seeking to block its efforts to clean up the judiciary.
The organisations sprang into action after the government initiated a process to impeach Justice Majara.
In its statement, the government said it was trying to “restore the confidence of the public in the courts and the dignity of the citizens who deserve unconditional protection from arbitrary violation of basic human rights”.

The government said its noble efforts have attracted negative comments from some quarters within international legal organisations.
It said the Commonwealth Lawyers Association, the Commonwealth Legal Foundation Association and the Commonwealth Magistrates and Judges Association have without making “any inquiries from the government and all affected and interested parties jointly issued a statement of concern about what they call ‘moves to remove Chief Justice Nthomeng Majara from her position as head of the High Court and chairperson of judicial services’”.

“This statement pretends to be made in support of the Southern African Chief Justices’ Forum (SACJF), which similarly fired a knee-jerk short (sic) in the dark without making any requisite enquiries,” the statement reads.

“They pretend to address, and in a way forewarn the same government against the perils of a foreseeable mishandling of the honourable judges’ case.”
The government said there were no plans at present “to remove Justice Nthomeng Majara from her position, but the said judge has been presented with questions to answer in respect of her competence and qualification to continue in office”.

“This has come to pass only in accordance with the provisions of the constitution of Lesotho and supporting laws, and the initiation of proceedings leading to the speculated removal could only depend on the responses received.” The government says while it respects the rights of every potential victim and their sympathizers to canvas their case and trump up support and solidarity, it finds it “piquantly odd that the case of Justice Majara has suddenly found priority attention in these quarters whereas the country’s justice system has been passing through testing currents involving three impeachment proceedings for occupants of the office of Chief Justice and President of Court of Appeal through the three coalition governments since 2012”.

“The two statements see the government’s constitutional handling of the Chief Justice as portending danger to the independence of the courts and separation of powers as globally understood,” the statement reads. “This slant wrongly elevates the fate of a single human (sic) person to that of an institution, and the values that undergird its substance.”

“It is however not logical to pretend that touching a stand (sic) of hair of such a person spells doom for the institution, on the contrary that must just save it.”
The government said the much-craved independence of the judiciary is a troubled terrain, “which has been strained by weird decisions and practices of the judges in recent years, including those that pandered to affectations (sic) of waves of partisan opinions that fly in the face of internationally accepted norms”.

“These include self-contradicting decisions by the High Court with serious implications for the rule of law and good governance.”
“The country is rapidly descending into an abyss of chaos where the courts as the ultimate umpire of public morality of upholding the dignity of every man and women (sic) seek to answer only to themselves and to the winds of opinion that undermine the core of our civilization.”

“We wish to positively state that the case of Chief Justice Nthomeng Majara, whatever the course, will be handled only in accordance with the constitution and known principles of natural justice.”
The government however commended a statement by a joint fact-finding mission of International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) and the African Judges and Jurists Forum (AJJF).
It said the mission “correctly mapped out the now acknowledged institutional constraints which have necessitated the contemplated judicial reforms, and calls for reopening of the Court of Appeal which has been in limbo for two seasons now”. “The statement aptly observes the deep societal polarisation, and urges constant dialogue between the deeply divided legal profession and the bench to heal these wounds.”

Nkheli Liphoto

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