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Southern african judges commission conference, maseru, lesotho

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30th March – 1st April 2007

Constitutionalism: the Key to Democracy, Human Rights and the Rule of Law

The Southern African Judges Commission held a Conference on Constitutionalism: the Key to Democracy, Human Rights and the Rule of Law and its Annual General Meeting in Maseru, Lesotho from the 30th March to the 1st April 2007. The Meeting gathered Chief Justices and Judges from Tanzania, Zambia, Uganda, the Kingdom of Swaziland, Mozambique, Malawi, Kenya, Namibia, Botswana, Mauritius and the Kingdom of Lesotho.

The Right Honourable the Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Lesotho gave a keynote address and opened the Conference. The Acting Chairman of the Commission, Chief Justice Samatta of Tanzania passed a vote of thanks at the ceremony.

The Chief Justice of Lesotho, Mr. Justice Lehohla presented papers on;

  • Constitutionalism: the key to Democracy, Human Rights and the Rule of Law

  • The Hague Convention on the Abduction of Children with Specific reference to Child Abduction/Trafficking in Lesotho

The Vice-President of the Venice Commission, Ms. Finola Flanagan, also delivered a paper on “Constitutionalism: the key to Democracy, Human Rights and the Rule of Law”.

The Meeting noted that the Rule of Law is key to ensuring that each of the three arms of the State performs its function unhindered by the other but in line with Constitutional imperatives. It is an essential part of Constitutionalism that only the ordinary courts of the Land have the constitutional mandate to resolve legal disputes and to make final determination on the parties’ respective rights and that any attempt by other organs of the State to circumvent or frustrate the Courts’ Constitutional duty is inimical to the imperative of Constitutionalism;

Further noting the importance of the safety and well-being of children when there has been a breakdown in the marriage or family, the Commission resolved to encourage member states of SAJC to ratify, where they have not, international instruments, especially the Hague Convention on the Abduction of Children, and to create national legal framework to give effect thereto, in order to achieve the objectives of the Convention, which are; to secure the orderly and prompt return of children unlawfully removed from the jurisdiction of members states; to recognize and enforce the rights of custodian access given in the other contracting state; and the designation of a Central Authority in each member state to foster co-operation for prompt return of children and to ensure rights of access.

To this end the Commission will do an audit of member states’ progress in the ratification and domestication of such international instruments. Member states are also urged to modernise their adoption laws in order to make it possible for needy children, in appropriate cases, to be adopted by persons outside national borders for better care.

The Commission further emphasized the need in member countries of a transparent and credible appointment procedure to the office of Chief Justice as head of the judiciary so as to ensure the preservation of judicial independence.

During its Annual General Meeting, the Commission re-elected Chief Justice Pius Langa of South Africa as Chairman of the Commission. It elected Chief Justice Ernest Sakala of Zambia as the Vice-Chairman. Chief Justice Benjamin Odoki of Uganda was elected to the Management Committee as Member.

The Commission also thanked Chief Justices Langa, Sakala, and Samatta who served on the previous Management Committee.

This Meeting was made possible through the generous sponsorship of the Venice Commission and the Government of Ireland. The Vice President and the Secretary General of the Venice Commission also attended the Meeting.

The SAJC expressed its deep gratitude to His Majesty’s Government, in particular the Right Honourable the Prime Minister Mosisili, Chief Justice Lehohla and the Judiciary for their warm hospitality in hosting the Meeting;

Maseru, Lesotho, 1st day of April, 2007.

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