THE Commonwealth Magistrates’ and Judges’ Association (CMJA), Commonwealth Legal Education Association (CLEA), the Commonwealth Lawyers Association (CLA) say courts are the guardians of justice, and the cornerstone of a democratic system based on the rule of law.
The associations have urged all parties in Malawi to respect the authority of the judiciary and ensure that due process is followed in line with the Malawi constitution and its international obligations.
This is according to a joint statement issued in the wake of threats by the Malawian ruling party against judges of that country’s Constitutional Court that nullified the election for irregularities.
The three Commonwealth associations stated that they were extremely concerned that in recent days supporters of the ruling party had attacked the Judiciary of Malawi and in particular five judges on the Constitutional Court for the decisions made in the Presidential Election Case and promoted unsubstantiated allegations of bribery which were misleading the public.
“The Courts are the guardians of justice, the cornerstone of a democratic system based on the rule of law. Democracy will be gravely undermined if judgments of the courts are not respected and if there are uncorroborated and unfounded accusations against the Judiciary,” the joint statement reads.
They stated that any allegations of corruption must be investigated thoroughly by the correct authorities and accurate information must be reported to members of the public.
They stated that democratic governance required that the public and all parties await the outcome of the legal and constitutional processes which were currently underway and refrain from trying to unduly influence the outcome of court deliberations.
“By virtue of its membership of the Commonwealth, Malawi is committed to the shared fundamental values and principles of the Commonwealth, at the core of which are the beliefs in, and adherence to, democratic principles including respect for the authority of an independent and impartial judiciary,” the statement reads. “Any measure on the part of the supporters of the ruling party which is seen as eroding the authority, independence and integrity of the judiciary, is a matter of deep concern.”
According to the statement, the Commonwealth (Latimer House) Principles on the Accountability of and the Relationship between the Three Branches of Government (2003) state that ‘Judges are accountable to the Constitution and to the law which they must apply honestly, independently and with integrity”.
“Best democratic principles require that the actions of governments are open to scrutiny by the courts, to ensure that decisions taken comply with the Constitution.’