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Judicial Independence in the Democratic Republic of Congo: Myth or Reality?

  • Roger-Claude Liwanga

Abstract

Soon after the first democratic elections were organized in 2006, the Democratic Republic of Congo engaged in a series of juridical reforms to ensure that the judiciary is free from interference from the other branches of government: the legislature and the executive. Accordingly, Law No 06/020 of 2006 on the Status of Magistrates and Law No 08/013 of 2008 on the Organization and Functioning of the Supreme Council of the Judiciary were enacted. This article examines judicial independence in the Democratic Republic of Congo today, and assesses the impact of the newly adopted legislation by comparing it with the preceding statutory provisions on the functioning of the judiciary. Do the laws on the status of magistrates and on the organization and functioning of the supreme council of the judiciary, as recently enacted, effectively strengthen the independence of the judiciary?

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References

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1 P Shivute “Judicial independence and the responsibilities of a judicial officer” (paper presented at the Magistrates' Symposium, Windhoek, 12 June 2004) at 5.

2 Keith, CLJudicial independence and human rights protection around the world” (2002) Judiciature 195.

3 Consultative Council of European Judges “Recommendation on the independence, efficiency and role of judges and the relevance of its standards and any other international standards to current problems in these fields” (2001) OP no 1 at 3, available at: <http://www.coe.int/t/dghl/monitoring/greco/evaluations/round4/CCJE%20Opinion%201_EN.pdf> (last accessed 9 May 2012).

4 Art 10.

5 Art 14(1).

6 Art 26.

7 Ordinance on the Status of Magistrates, art 5.

8 Id, art 16.

9 2006 Constitution, art 152(1).

10 Law on the Organization and Functioning of the CSM, art 2.

11 Law on the Status of Magistrates, art 1.

12 Id, preamble.

13 B Kabamba et al “Premiers scrutins de la Troisième République Démocratique du Congo. Analyse des résultats” [“First elections of the Third Democratic Republic of Congo: Analysis of results”] (2007) 7 Federalisme Regionalisme [Federalism Regionalism], available at: <http://popups.ulg.ac.be/federalisme/document.php?id=552> (last accessed 9 May 2012).

14 Art 187(1).

15 Art 147(1).

16 Id, art 146(1).

17 Id, art 147(4).

18 T Gallagher “Criminal law: A critical analysis of the magistrate court”, available at: <http://www.huntlycomputers.co.uk/criminal-justice-system.html> (last accessed 3 May 2012).

19 Ibid.

20 Promulgated on 1 January 1983 and revised on 27 June 1988.

21 Id, art 36: “The president of the MPR is by right the president of the Republic … he monitors the proper functioning of all organs of the MPR.”

22 COCJ, art 12(2): “The general prosecutor of the Republic shall, on the order of the minister of justice, initiate or continue the investigation of any offences.”

23 Ordinance on the Organization and Functioning of the CSM, art 3(2).

24 Id, art 4: “Exceptionally, the president of the Republic can appoint as judges or public prosecutors to any grade, either on his own initiative or at the request of the president of the CSM or the Bureau of the CSM, any persons who satisfy the conditions of article 1.”

25 The text of the pledge read: “I swear loyalty to the president of the MPR, the president of the Republic, and obedience to the constitution and to the laws of the Republic of Zaire.”

26 Ordinance on the Organization and Functioning of the CSM, art 2(2). When the pursued magistrate ranked lower than the president of the Court of Appeal or the Court of State Security or general advocate, the CSM was composed of the chairman of the Judicial Council, the first president of the Court of Appeal or Court of State Security, and the general attorney at the Court of Appeal or Court of State Security. When the pursued magistrate ranked higher than the president of the Court of Appeal or the Court of State Security or attorney general, the CSM was composed of the chairman of the Judicial Council, the first president of the Supreme Court of Justice and the attorney general of the Republic.

27 Id, art 3.

28 Art 64(2): “It shall be for a separate law to prescribe the composition, organisation and functioning of the CSM. Notwithstanding, the president of the Republic and minister of justice shall be the president and vice-president of the Council respectively.” See also: Moniteur Congolais No 14 [The Congolese Monitor] (15 July 1967) at 561.

29 Ordinance on the Status of Magistrates, art 43.

30 Id, art 45(1).

31 Id, art 45(2).

32 Id, art 45(5).

33 Id, art 49(3).

34 Id, art 41.

35 Id, art 42.

36 Id, art 11(2).

37 Decree No 144 of 6 November 1998 on the Dismissal of Magistrates.

38 Ordinance on the Status of Magistrates, art 16.

39 Id, art 21.

40 2006 Constitution, art 149(1).

41 Law on the Organization and Functioning of the CSM, art 2.

42 2006 Constitution, art 156(2): “The CSM is composed of the president of the Constitutional Court, general prosecutor at the Constitutional Court, first president of the Court of Cassation, general prosecutor at the Court of Cassation, first president of the Council of State, general prosecutor at the Council of State, first president of the High Military Court, auditor general at the High Military Court, first presidents of Courts of Appeal, prosecutors at the Courts of Appeal, first presidents of the Administrative Courts of Appeal, prosecutors at the Administrative Courts of Appeal, first presidents of the Military Courts, auditors military superiors, two judges from each Court of Appeal, two public prosecutors attached to each Court of Appeal, one judge from each Military Court, and one public prosecutor attached to each Military Court.”

43 “La révision de la constitution est le prélude de la ‘monarchisation’ des institutions” [“The revision of the constitution is a prelude to the ‘monarchization’ of institutions”] (28 November 2007) Le Potentiel [The Potential], available at: <http://www.lepotentiel.com/afficher_article.php?id_edition=&id_article=56061> (last accessed 9 May 2012).

44 Art 132 of the constitution (Law No 002/97/ADP of 27 January 1997).

45 “Les Conseils Supérieurs de la Magistrature ou organes equivalents en Afrique: Brève présentation comparative de leur pouvoirs et compositions” [“Supreme Councils of Judiciary or equivalent organs in Africa: A short presentation comparing their powers and compositions”] (November 2007), available at: <http://www.afrimap.org/english/images/research_pdf/CSM_en_Afrique.pdf> (last accessed 9 May 2012).

46 J Djogbenou “Bénin: Secteur de la justice et l'état de droit” [“Benin: The justice sector and the state of the law”] (2010), available at: <http://www.afrimap.org/english/images/report/AfriMAP_Benin_Justice_Principal.pdf> (last accessed 12 December 2010).

47 “Les Conseils Supérieurs”, above at note 45.

48 Ibid.

49 Djogbenou “Bénin”, above at note 46.

50 Law on the Organization and Functioning of the CSM, art 6.

51 Id, art 17(1).

52 2006 Constitution, arts 160–62.

53 Law on the Status of Magistrates, art 2.

54 “Étude de législation comparée: La composition des cours constitutionnelles” [“Comparative study of legislation: The composition of constitutional courts”] (November 2007) Service des Études Juridiques [Legal Studies Service], available at: <http://www.senat.fr/lc/lc179/lc179_mono.html> (last accessed 9 May 2012).

55 Ibid.

56 Law on the Status of Magistrates, art 13(1).

57 COCJ, art 10: “Officers of the public prosecutor are under the authority of the minister of justice.”

58 Id, art 12.

59 The 2006 Constitution, art 150 and the Law on the Status of Magistrates, art 14.

60 Art 23. See also: “Les Conseils Supérieurs”, above at note 45 at 2.

61 Consultative Council of European Judges “Recommendation”, above at note 3 at 13.

62 Ibid.

63 “Organic Law” No 2010-1341 of 10 November 2010 on the Age Limit for Magistrates of the Judiciary.

64 Van de Vijver The Judicial Institution in Southern Africa, above at note 47 at 80.

65 Makar, SDIn praise of older judges: Raise the mandatory retirement age?” (1997) LXXI/4Florida Bar Journal 48, available at: <http://www.floridabar.org/divcom/jn/jnjournal01.nsf> (last accessed 12 December 2010).

66 Law on the Status of Magistrates, art 70.

67 Ibid.

68 Art 48 of the “Organic Law” No 94-101 of 5 February 1994 Amending Ordinance No 58-1270 of 22 December 1958 on the Status of the Magistrature.

69 “Les Conseils Supérieurs”, above at note 45 at 5.

70 Constitution of Lesotho, sec 125.

71 Law on the Organization and Functioning of the CSM, art 20.

72 Id, arts 22 and 23(1).

73 Id, art 22.

74 Id, art 23(1).

75 Id, art 23(2).

76 Law on the Status of Magistrates, art 50.

77 Law on the Organization and Functioning of the CSM, art 28(2).

78 Ibid.

79 Code of Civil Procedure (1960), arts 96–104.

80 Ordinance No 82-017 on the Procedure Before the Supreme Court of Justice, art 60.

81 Preamble to the Law on the Organization and Functioning of the CSM.

82 Law on the Status of Magistrates, arts 57 and 58.

83 Id, art 49.

84 S Bolle “RD Congo: J Kabila pouvait-il purger la magistrature en l'absence du CSM de la Constitution de 2006?” [“DR of Congo: Can J Kabila purge the magistrature in the absence of the CSM from the constitution of 2006?”] (9 March 2008) La Constitution en Afrique [The Constitution in Africa], available at: <http://www.la-constitution-en-afrique.org/article-17496115.html> (last accessed 9 May 2012).

85 “Grève des magistrats: Mot d'ordre diversement suivi” [“Magistrates' strike: Order followed to varying degrees”] (29 March 2010) Radio Okapi, available at: <http://radiookapi.net/actualite/2010/03/29/greve-des-magistrats-le-mot-dordre-est-diversement-suivi/> (last accessed 9 May 2012).

86 “Les magistrats Congolais s'opposent à la modification de leur statut” [“Congolese magistrates oppose changes to their status”] (23 March 2010) Radio Okapi, available at: <http://radiookapi.net/emissions-audio/dialogue-entre-congolais/2010/03/23/ce-soir-les-magistrats-congolais-sopposent-a-la-modification-de-leur-statut/> (last accessed 9 May 2012).

87 Law on the Status of Magistrates, art 61(1).

88 Id, art 61(2).

89 Art 149(6) of the constitution and art 37(1) of the Law on the Organization and Functioning of the CSM.

90 Ordinance on the Status of Magistrates, art 16(1): “The initial salaries of each grade of magistrate are fixed by the president of the MPR, the president of the Republic.”

91 “Organic Law” No 96-11 on Fixing the Status of Magistrates, art 42.

92 Van de Vijver The Judicial Institution in Southern Africa, above at note 47 at 64.

93 Judges' Remuneration and Conditions of Employment Act of 2001, sec 2.

94 “RDC: Adoption de la loi relative à la Cour Constitutionnelle” [“DRC: Adoption of the law on the Constitutional Court”] (12 April 2011) Culture Congolaise [Congolese Culture], available at: <http://www.culturecongolaise.net/?p=6324> (last accessed 9 May 2012).

95 UN Security Council “Report of the secretary-general on the United Nations organization stabilization mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo” (January 2012) at 2, available at: <http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=S/2012/65> (last accessed 9 May 2012).

96 Ibid. See also: The Carter Center “DRC presidential election results lack credibility” (10 December 2011), available at: <http://www.cartercenter.org/news/pr/drc-121011.html> (last accessed 9 May 2012).

97 Ibid.

98 Ibid.

99 UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs “Côte d'Ivoire post-electoral crisis” (humanitarian report no 1, 28 December 2010), available at: <http://www.geceao.org/sites/default/files/Sitrep_CIV_28dec2010.pdf> (last accessed 9 May 2012).

100 Ibid.

101 2006 Constitution, art 158(1).

102 Art 149.

103 COCJ, art 10.

104 Id, art 12: “The general prosecutor of the Republic may, on the order of the minister of justice, initiate or continue any investigation of an offence.”

105 Bernard-Maugiron, N “Vers une plus grande indépendance du pouvoir judiciaire en Egype?” [“Towards greater independence for the judiciary in Egypt?”] (2007) 59/1Revue Internationale de Droit Comparé [International Comparative Legal Review] 83.

106 Ibid.

107 W Djamba “RDC: Quelle réforme du système judiciaire pour l'établissement d'un état de droit?” [“DRC: What reform of the judicial system would establish the rule of law?”] (21 February 2007) Pambazuka News, available at: <http://pambazuka.org/fr/category/comment/39956> (last accessed 6 June 2011).

108 Congolese Network Against Corruption “Press release no 038/LICOCO/SG/2011” at 4–11, available at: <http://www.atol.be/bib/opac_css/doc_num.php?explnum_id=1556> (last accessed 14 May 2012).

109 J Yav Katshung “Oui à l'indépendance du pouvoir judiciaire en RDC. Mais avec quels opérateurs judiciaires?” [“Yes to the independence of the judiciary in the DRC. But with which judicial actors?”] (25 June 2008) La Conscience, available at: <http://www.laconscience.com/Oui-a-l-independance-du-Pouvoir-Judiciaire-en-RDC-Mais-avec-quels-Operateurs-Judiciaires.html> (last accessed 9 May 2012).

* LLD candidate (University of South Africa); LLM in human rights law (University of Cape Town); Licence en Droit (Université Protestante au Congo); legal consultant at The Carter Center, USA; continuing legal education expert (consultant) at The American Bar Association “Rule of Law Initiative”, USA. This article is an adaptation of a paper presented at the annual Conference of the African Network of Constitutional Lawyers in 2009. The author would like to thank Casondra Turner for her assistance with this article.

Judicial Independence in the Democratic Republic of Congo: Myth or Reality?

  • Roger-Claude Liwanga

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