Independence of judges and institutions key to stability and transitional process, says UN expert


The independence of the judiciary and national institutions is vital to stability and transitional process in the Central African Republic (CAR), a UN expert said today, following the removal of the top judge on the country’s Constitutional Court by presidential decree last week.

President of the Central African Republic Faustin-Archange Touadéra removed the President of the Constitutional Court, Danièle Darlan, by decree on 25 October. Darlan had previously been notified of her retirement decision as a law professor by presidential decree, and the retirement was cited as her “definitive impediment” to continue to hold office as a judge and President on the Constitutional Court. Opposition parties, civil society organisations and other concerned stakeholders in the CAR have questioned the legality and the legitimacy of these executive decisions.

“The Constitutional Court is a pillar of the rule of law architecture in the CAR and must be free from interference and political influence from inside and outside,” said Yao Agbetse, the Independent expert on the situation of human rights in Central African Republic. “The interpretation of laws is the responsibility not of politicians, the media, civil society organisations or technical and financial partners, but of bodies specifically designated for this purpose by the Constitution, like the Constitutional Court,” the expert said.

Agbetse said these institutions must exercise their mandate with complete independence and without political interference or hindrance. “Speculation and arguments interpreting the law, including on social networks, outside the dedicated bodies, are likely to create a climate of mistrust of politicians and sow confusion,” Agbetse said, warning that the situation could erode the ongoing peace and reconciliation process in the CAR.

The expert reiterated that the retirement of State officials on the date set by national legislation should not serve or be used for political purposes, to weaken institutions.

“Political decisions of expediency could hinder the evolution of programmes aimed at the social, political and economic recovery of the country,” the UN expert said.

“Ultimately, it is the responsibility of the executive to ensure that cardinal principles such as the irremovability and independence of judges, the organizational and operational independence of institutions, and the separation of powers are duly respected.”

The expert recalled that the consolidation of constitutional institutions entrusted with upholding the rule of law and democratic governance, protecting human rights, fighting impunity and promoting good governance were vital to the success of CAR’s transitional process.

“In the quest to restore State authority across the country, Central African authorities must demonstrate their capacity to implement solid democratic governance based on national institutions, following the principles of international law to which the CAR has freely expressed its consent to be bound by,” Agbetse said.

“It is the responsibility of the executive to put an end to the current deleterious climate in the country through a policy of respect for human rights and institutions,” he said.

The expert called on the CAR authorities to comply with their obligations and commitments relating to the transitional process, guarantee the independence of institutions including the Constitutional Court, the National Assembly, the Superior Council of the Judiciary and the national courts in accordance with principles of neutrality, impartiality, independence. CAR authorities must protect the moral and physical integrity of individuals who serve in national institutions as well as the immunities associated with their status, Agbetse said.

“The authorities must clearly specify, at least for the next three years, the political priorities, including those related to the consolidation of institutions, with a detailed implementation schedule,” he said.

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