Monday, February 21, 2011

Cameroon: Chief Justice advocates justice system sensitive to public aspirations

Chief  Justice Lucy Asuagbor
By Christopher Ambe Shu
The Lord Chief Justice of the Southwest Region of Cameroon has strongly recommended a justice system in the country that is responsive to the aspirations of the general public.
This recommendation is coming at a time when the judiciary in Cameroon continues to be identified as one of the sectors where corruption is rife.
Lord Chief Justice Lucy Asuagbor was speaking, February 18 in Buea, in reply to New Year’s wishes presented to her and Lord Justice Fonkwe Joseph Fogang, procureur-general for the Southwest region, by the entire judicial corps. The well-attended ceremony took place at the Buea court premises.
She wished to see a society anchored in justice, freedom, liberty and peace.
“I caress the dream of a justice system which is responsive to the aspirations of the general public in that, it is credible, speedy, fair, impartial, and humane -and governed by due process”, the chief justice told the judicial corps that includes: magistrates, lawyers, sheriff-bailiffs, penitentiary personnel, judicial police and court registrars. “One sobering truth is that an institution that loses its credibility lacks the moral wherewithal to challenge others”.
The Chief Justice noted that “through out history and in all societies the search for has always been a quest”.
She particularly appealed to lawyers to continue challenging the bench because “that is one of the surest ways in which you can make meaningful contributions towards improving on the quality of justice served to litigants in our courts’’.
Chief Justice Asuagbor called on lawyers to give the best advice to clients, but warned: “Your actions should not be dictated by the desire to assuage your ego or line your pockets”
The Chief Justice regretted that   sometimes the judicial police who investigate cases for prosecution don’t live up to expectation.
“Sometimes whether by design or negligence, the most important indices of an offence are left out rendering the job of the prosecutor extremely difficult. There is no doubt that the wheels of justice are clogged whenever investigations are bungled up” she observed, prescribing meticulousness as the watchword for judicial police in their investigations.
She reminded the judicial police that, testifying in court must be the culmination of an investigation.
Another vexing issue the Chief justice addressed was the increase in the number of persons in custody awaiting trial.
This state of affairs, she bemoaned, runs against the grain of the Criminal Procedure Code and constitutes blight in the criminal justice system. Chief Justice Asuagbor warned that the chambers of examining magistrates should not become “graveyards where files go to take an undeserved rest”.
On Human Rights, the chief justice said:
 “This dismal situation of Human rights anywhere in the world is an indictment on the collective conscience.
“The respect for Human and People’s Rights is not the responsibility of human rights commissioners, activists and a few NGO’s alone.
“All of us must be Human Rights crusaders who are expected to more vocal in our condemnation of human rights abuses around us and more proactive in ensuring that those rights are respected”.
Earlier in his New Year speech on behalf of the entire judicial corps, Justice Anthony Kwamu Nana, of the Southwest Court of Appeal, commended  the structural achievements realized in the courts and lauded the professional advice given them by their superiors. “They encourage us to work hard and our output reflects this,” he said
But he regretted that the offices of vice-presidents of Court of Appeal did not yet have telephone facilities, despite of the importance of telephone in communication today.
Justice Nana expressed happiness that the statuses of the Penitentiary and Registry corps have now been improved;
He hoped that Justices would henceforth be treated with respect during official ceremonies. “Whenever we are invited in the grandstand or official ceremonies, nobody cares where and how we sit,” Justice Nana, recalled.

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