Kenya's justice system must be radically reformed to dispel popular notions that justice is a luxury afforded only to an elite few, a report released today by the International Bar Association Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) and the International Legal Assistance Consortium (ILAC) has found.
The report, titled Restoring integrity: An assessment of the needs of the justice system in the Republic of Kenya found that public confidence in the troubled African nation's judiciary all but collapsed in the wake of the disputed and violent 2007 elections.
Among the causes for the negative public perception are widespread corruption, significant court delays, high costs and an insufficiently independent judiciary. And according to the report, timeliness of any reforms adopted is crucial.
"With the next electoral cycle scheduled for 2012, time is of the essence," said IBAHRI co-chair Juan Mendez in a statement issued this week. "Until key reforms of the justice system are implemented, there is a risk that succession politics and electoral conflicts could reignite."
The report also found it is essential that the relationship between the judiciary and the executive be overhauled, that the process of judicial appointments be changed and that the Attorney-General and Chief Justice be barred from the Judicial Service Commission.
The report went on to recommend the creation of an independent office for the Attorney-General's prosecutorial powers.
The report also outlines the IBAHRI and ILC's support for the creation of a special tribunal to work alongside the International Criminal Court in prosecuting those responsible for the 2007 post-election violence, and urges the Kenyan government to take recommended reforms into consideration during current discussions regarding a new constitution .
"A strong, functioning justice system that enjoys the trust of the Kenyan citizens is a crucial element in the country's path to recovery," said Mendez.