Mission of East African Court of Justice
The East African Court of Justice, which operates from Arusha, is currently in the process of establishing five sub-registries in the partner states making up the East African Community.
Speaking here over the weekend the EACJ Registrar, Prof Dr John Ruhangisa told journalists that the now 12-year old Arusha-based regional court was becoming fully fledged and to achieve that it was starting by extending services in the capital cities of Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi. That is despite the fact that the EACJ itself is still not quite sure where its headquarters should be in the long run.
At the moment the court operates from Arusha where the East African Community Secretariat is being pivoted from. “In September we expect to move into the newly built East African Community Headquarters Complex, a building which has three wings; one to house the Secretariat, the second to be used by the East African Legislative Assembly and the third has been earmarked for the EACJ,” said Dr Ruhangisa.
It therefore seems like a clear case, that the regional court is by default set to be based in Arusha permanently; but should this be the case? “Hardly, until now we are in Arusha on temporary base until when the Heads of State Summit, which is the highest and ultimate decision making organ of the EAC makes an official announcement regarding where exactly the EA Court of Justice
should be permanently situated,” explained the Registrar.
Since the permanent seat is still not known, the EACJ is establishing sub-registries in all five countries Tanzania included and the latter is based at the ‘Court of Appeal,’ premises in Dar-es-salaam. The official occasion to inaugurate the regional sub-registries takes place in Rwanda during the 2012 EAC Media Summit which is being held in Kigali where one of the EACJ registries will be unveiled.
The East African Court of Justice is a treaty-based judicial body of the East African Community with mandate to ensure law observance in the interpretation, application of and compliance with the EAC Treaty of 1999, and the latter is being amended as well. The Court is made up of the First Instance Division and an Appellate Division. There are ten judges in the First Instance Division and five in the Appellate Division.
They are appointed by the East African Community (Heads of State) Summit, from among persons recommended by the Partner States and who are of proven integrity, impartiality and judicial independence. The appointed Justices must also fulfill the conditions required in their respective countries for high judicial office, or are jurists of recognized competence. The President of the East African Court of Justice, Judge Harold Nsekela and Principal Judge Justice Johnston Busingye, moved into Arusha permanently to officially assume office on fulltime basis at the seat of the Court.
Before lodging at EACJ on full-time basis, the Judge President Justice Harold Nsekela was a Justice of the Court of Appeal of the United Republic Tanzania and the Principal Judge Justice Johnston Busingye was President of the High Court of the Republic Rwanda. Their settling in Arusha follows a directive by the 24th Ordinary Meeting of the EAC Council of Ministers held in Burundi last November to the effect that the services of the two EACJ Judges be full-time with effect from 1 July2012.
Both the President of the Court and the Principal Judge, have always been performing their statutory functions as administrative heads of the EAC judicial organ off-site, since the Court was inaugurated on 30 November 2001, The EACJ Registrar said such on-and-off procedure was a practice viewed as likely to undermine the institution’s efficacy especially in light of the increasing volume of work for the regional court.
The increase in the number of cases prompted the Court to submit a proposal to the24th Ordinary Meeting of the Council of Ministers to engage the Judge President and the Judges of the First Instance Division full time in Arusha. At the moment the First Instance and Appellate divisions of the EACJ hold sessions every two weeks in a month. The Council decided that for the time being, it was only urgent to approve permanent residence for the Judge President and Principal Judge, while the rest carry on serving in both their national judiciaries and at the regional court.
The day-to-day administration of the Court is done by the Registrar Prof Dr John Eudes- Ruhangisa assisted by his Deputy Ms Umugwaneza Geraldine. EACJ Judges have been working on ad-hoc basis since the court was established in November 2001. This owed in large part to the low volume of judicial work which did not warrant having a permanent regional Court. Thing may be improving but still not satisfactory; the President of the Court, Justice Nsekela keeps reminding partner states to make use of the EACJ when it comes to handling arbitration issues.
“In the decade ahead of us, Partner States should see the need for utilizing the Court’s facility as an arbitral tribunal. The Court on its part is ready an prepared to handle any arbitration matter. Judges have been trained and familiarized themselves with international commercial arbitration principles and practices,” he was recently quoted.
According to the EACJ President, the Court has already reviewed its rules of arbitration to measure up to international standards, but despite such achievement, no case of dispute has been referred to the Regional Judicial organ’s chambers for arbitration. It is of great concern to Judge Nsekela that the entire panel of the founding judges of the EA Court of Justice has all retired without handling an arbitral matter. Still further training is reported to be under way for the new crop of judges.
Source Tanzania Daily News
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