Saturday, July 31, 2010

A Code of Conduct for Judges

Finally! Slowly but surely, Chief Justice Egonda-Ntende is paving the way for a judiciary that the public can have some confidence in. On the 22nd of July 2010, the Chief Justice launched the Seychelles Code of Judicial Conduct, a 15-page document outlining the principles in which Judges must conduct their duties.

In the launch event, held at the STC Conference Room, before several eminent guests, including Vice-President Danny Faure and Deputy Speaker Wilby Lucas, the Chief Justice stated that the public has lost its confidence in the judiciary and that the Code of Conduct may help bring back some confidence by giving the public a better idea on what to expect from judges.

The Code of Conduct has some key principles that all judges must abide to, and these are: Independence, Impartiality, Integrity, Propriety, Equality, Competence and Diligence. The Code of Conduct also makes it clear who should conduct their duties in line with the Code and these are all the Justices of Appeal, Judges of the Supreme Court, Masters, Registrars, Magistrates and any other person exercising judicial authority. This means even the chairpersons and members of tribunals, such as the Family Tribunal and the Employment Tribunal.

How You Can Help

It is not entirely clear what sanction or punishment may be levied at a judicial officer for breaching the code, but it is unequivocal that they should be reported for their breaches. Justices of Appeal and Judges of the Supreme Court should be reported to the Constitutional Appointments Authority, who may initiate an investigation into the matter and has the power to constitute a committee to decide upon the removal of the Justice or Judge. In the same vein, Magistrates may be reported to the Chief Justice and Chairpersons/members of tribunals and boards should be reported to their respective Ministries and perhaps complaints should also be copied to the Ombudsman, who is in charge of investigating maladministration within the Government. And if all else fails or at the same time as you make the above complaints, perhaps you should also report unethical behaviour to the press, the IMF (economic development and investor confidence are influenced by public/investor confidence in the judiciary), the Bar Association of Seychelles and the Robing Room.

Interesting Paragraphs in the Code

Paragraph 1.1 states that "A Judge shall exercise the judicial function independently... free of any direct or indirect extraneous influences, inducements, pressures, threats or interference".

Paragraph 1.2 states that "A Judge shall reject any attempt arising from outside the proper judicial process, to influence the decision in any matter before the Judge for judicial decision." This has huge consequences, because it would mean that certain judges will now have to learn about proper admissibility of evidence in court.

Paragraph 2.4 states that "A Judge shall refrain from participating in any proceedings in which the [impartiality] of the Judge might reasonably be questioned. Without limiting the generality of the foregoing, a Judge shall disqualify himself or herself from participating in any proceedings... where the Judge has personal knowledge of the disputed facts concerning the proceedings and which knowledge is likely to influence or prejudice his judgment; [or] ... where a member of the Judge's family [which includes in-laws and any close relative], employee or friend is representing a litigant, is a party, or has interest in the outcome of the matter in controversy, in the proceedings."

Para 3.1: "A Judge shall respect and uphold the laws of the country."

Para 5.1: "A Judge shall not in the performance of judicial duties, be biased or prejudiced towards any person or group on basis of unjust discrimination."

Para 6.1: "A Judge shall endeavour to maintain and enhance knowledge, skill... necessary for the proper and competent performance and discharge of judicial duties."

It is not clear where members of the public may obtain a complete copy of the Seychelles Code of Judicial Conduct, whose publication has been funded in full or in part by the UNDP. But this is a document that must be made more widely available to the public. The problems with the judiciary is not only due to the system, but also to some of the judicial officers behind it, getting them to behave is the next best thing to having them removed.

The Robing Room is the official blog of the Seychelles Legal Environment Website (, the only website about the Seychelles Legal Environment that is constantly updated.

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