Damaseb must take responsibility
Judge President Petrus Damaseb’s complaints that excessive delays in the delivery of High Court judgements erode trust in the justice system, may mislead the public into believing that someone else outside of the High Court, is to blame for such delays, says Phil ya Nangoloh, executive director of NamRights.
Speaking during the official opening ceremony of the High Court in Windhoek on Monday, Judge Damaseb reiterated that the inordinate delays in the delivery of judgements at the High Court “seriously erode confidence in the judiciary”.
According to Damaseb, close to 120 reserved judgements – most of them as old as three years – have yet to be delivered and have gone past the deadlines in disregard of the relevant guidelines approved by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC).
He further said that four judgements dating from 2002 remain outstanding, as are four reserved judgements dating back to 2003, five from 2004, two from 2005, five from 2006 and three from 2007. Thirteen judgements reserved in 2008 are still to be delivered, while 17 reserved judgements from 2009 remain outstanding. Another 37 from 2010 remain outstanding and a further 28 from 2011.
Ya Nangoloh says as the supreme administrative officer at the High Court, Damaseb has all the power to introduce changes for the better.
“This is similar to, for example, President Pohamba complaining about corruption in his Cabinet. Hence, our firm position is that as the “king” of the High Court “palace”, Judge Damaseb bears the final responsibility for those excessive delays at that Court,” said ya Nangoloh.
NamRights urged the Judge President to introduce a sanction at the High Court whereby civil judgements which are delayed for a year, should be won by the plaintiffs and that in criminal cases, persons detained for more than two years should be set free.
“The right to a speedy trial is a fundamental and peremptory cornerstone of the Rule of Law, in the manner contemplated in the Namibian Constitution,” said ya Nangoloh.
According to statistics provided by the Registrar of the High and Supreme Courts, one High Court judgement dating back to 2001, five judgements dating from 2002, five from 2003, seven from 2004, six from 2005, seven from 2006 and nine from 2007, were still outstanding by the end of 2010.
The Law Society of Namibia (LSN) compiled a list of outstanding judgements in 2010 which showed that one appeal judgement dating back from 2004 was still being awaited in the Supreme Court, while two judgements dating from 2005, eight from 2006 and three from 2007 had also not been delivered in the Supreme Court by late 2010.
Judge Damaseb said that Article 12 of the Namibian Constitution requires that a trial take place within a reasonable time.
He stressed that the right to be tried within a reasonable time “must of necessity entail protection against excessive and oppressive procedural delays”.
Damaseb added that the Judicial Branch has an obligation to ensure a speedier, workable and understandable procedural framework for the administration of justice.