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African Justices take justice to the States

Judge President Petrus Damaseb, on the left, with his African justice colleagues, during their visit to Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg of the US Supreme Court.

Judge President Petrus Damaseb, on the left, with his African justice colleagues, during their visit to Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg of the US Supreme Court.

Washington — Nine jurists from African nations participated in a nine-day programme on the U.S. judicial system, which included visits to the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington and the Seventh U.S. Court of Appeals in Chicago, and talks with U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton.
The visit was part of the State Department’s International Visitor Leadership Programme.
The participants were Supreme Court justices and high-ranking jurists from Namibia, Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. The programme provided the African justices with a close view of the U.S. trial process and court management systems. It also  promoted an appreciation for the rule of law and the advancement of fair, transparent, accessible and independent judiciaries around the world.
On the first leg of the trip in Washington, the jurists toured the Supreme Court and met with Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who explained the court’s role in the U.S. legal system and its methods of case management. At the Department of State, Ambassador Johnnie Carson, the assistant secretary of state for African affairs, met with the jurists about U.S. government initiatives on rule of law in Africa.
After travelling to Chicago, the group visited the U.S. Court of Appeals for a discussion on judicial ethics, court administration, improving public perception of the judiciary and transparency.
The visitors returned to Washington, where Carl Alexandre, the director of the Department of Justice’s Office of Overseas Prosecutorial Development, discussed U.S. rule of law initiatives to increase the judicial and prosecutorial capabilities of partner countries and emerging democracies.
“When we visited Northwestern Law School,” said Rizine Mzikamanda, justice of appeal for the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal, “we learned about legal clinics and how useful law students are to court processes, especially in helping litigants who don’t have legal representation.”
Mzikamanda encapsulated the discussions on rule of law in this way: “Judicial independence is public property. When the judiciary is independent and is upholding the rule of law, it creates an appropriate environment for social and economic development. Direct foreign investment, for example, will come in if there is trust that there is judicial independence. They will want to invest in that country because they know that their investment will be safe and protected by the rule of law.”
On the final afternoon of the visit, the group met with Clinton and three representatives of the State Department’s Bureau of African Affairs.

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