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Higher Judicial Council Sanction Looms Over 100 Magistrates 

By Yerima Kini Nsom

Biya_Paul_Signature_140714300The fate of over 100 magistrates is said to be hanging on a balance as the Higher Judicial Council is expected to be meet any moment from now.

The Council will slam sanctions on unscrupulous magistrates if found guilty of wrongdoing. According to sources at the Ministry of Justice and Keeper of the Seals, complaints against such magistrates border on acts of corruption and partiality that lead to the miscarriage of justice in most of their decisions.

Others are being accused of the violation of professional ethics and the disrespect of hierarchy.

Before President Paul Biya left for a private visit to Europe last week, talk was rife that he was about to convene a session of the Council.

After the Attorneys-General of the Court of Appeal and State Counsels held a two-day meeting with the Minister of Justice in Yaounde last August, observers expected the convening of the Higher Judicial Council meeting.

Too many issues, The Post leant, are pending since the last session of the council took place on December 18, 2014. Given that the Council session has not been held for two years, the promotion and demotion as well as the recruitment of magistrates into the corps have been stalled.

There are many magistrates who are due retirement and can only be replaced by the Judicial Council.

Inside sources told The Post that the delay in convening a session of the Council to trash issues has ignited a general malaise in the functioning of the magistracy and the country’s justice system in general.

It is reported that many magistrates who might have been promoted before now are totally disillusioned. They are said to be grumbling everyday to the effect that the State has not been fair to them.

Many people in certain areas are waiting for the Council to slam sanctions on some unscrupulous magistrates who hawk justice to the higher bidder in most of their court decisions.

The delay in convening the Council is equally generating so much anxiety among members of the outfit that President Biya appointed in December 24, 2014. Such members were appointed by virtue of Presidential decree no.2014/594 of December, 24, 2014.

Among those appointed as substantive members are personalities designated by the National Assembly, namely: Hon. Bernabe Eloundou, Hon. Brigitte Mebonde and Hon Pierre Laoussou. Members designated by the Supreme Court include: Justice Fofung Justine Nabum Wacka, Justice Marc Ombala Ateba and Justice Manga Moukouri.

The President of the Republic designated one Mr Albert Ekono Nna.

By virtue of that decree, President Biya equally appointed five alternate members of the Higher Judicial Council. One of them is SDF MP for the Santa constituency in the Northwest Region, Hon Chief Paul Nji Tumasang.

The substantive members have been waiting to savour the Council session in vain. Although the Higher Judicial Council shoulders responsibilities of great magnitude over the functioning of the judicial system, its functioning remains at the whims and caprices of one man, President Biya who is Chair of the Council.

Observers hold that the vesting of so much power on the President of the Republic is a legal lacuna that gravely undermines the independence of the judiciary. By virtue of Article 37 of the constitution, it is the President of the Republic that is guarantor of the independence of the judiciary in Cameroon.

Critics have picked holes with such a constitutional provision, saying it is the biggest irony that the head of the executive is expected to ensure the independence of the judiciary.

“The judiciary can never be independent in the scandalous situation wherein the President of the Republic has overwhelming powers to hire and fire magistrates at will,” one critic retorted.

Government sources hold that, although it is incumbent on the Higher Judicial Council session to hold, it can only be possible when President Biya returns to the country.

They reveal that the prelude to such a meeting is a compulsory meeting between the Technical Adviser at the Presidency in Charge of Legal Affairs, Jean Foumane Akame and the Minister of Justice, Laurent Esso.

The Minister of Justice and Keeper of the Seals is the Vice Chair of the Council, while the Technical Adviser at the Presidency in Charge of Legal Affairs is its Secretary.

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