NAKURU, Kenya, May 10 – Chief Justice Martha Koome, opening the 2nd National Conference on Criminal Justice Reform, urged stakeholders in the justice sector to promote rights-based access to justice.
Koome reiterated the judiciary’s commitment to strengthening human rights in the criminal justice arena by expanding the doors of the judiciary using Alternative Justice Systems (AJS).
She said AJS is a key component of community-run justice and an important aid in relieving prisons and court backlogs.
Speaking at the start of the three-day conference, the Chief Justice in Naivasha said AJS reflects the realities of local people who are faster and more approachable.
She said the use of non-governmental justice systems such as councils of elders, extended family members, nyumba kumi and religious institutions offer a different and sometimes more effective way to improve access to justice.
“This year’s theme is ‘Towards a rights-based criminal justice sector’ and this conference aims to advance the conversation on strengthening human rights in the criminal justice sector,” she said.
CJ Koome, who joined Interior Ministry Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i, Independent Elections and Boundaries Commission chair Wafula Chebukati and Prosecutor’s Office chief Noordin Haji, along with other senior officials, said the conference enabled the sharing of unique experiences and best practices.
The conference was organized by the National Council on the Administration of Justice (NCAJ), of which she is Chair, and its partners.
She said stakeholders, which included various government departments and independent commissions such as the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission, the National Cohesion and Integration Commission and the IEBC, would have an opportunity to exchange ideas and reflect on challenges that impede efficient service delivery.
“Through this annual conference, the different arms can develop workable solutions together,” said the CJ.
She added that the judiciary has made great strides by establishing a specialized court on sexual and gender-based violence at the Shanzu Courts in Mombasa, which is due to be rolled out in other parts of the country in the near future.
“The Judiciary has commissioned academics and senior legal and medical professionals to conduct a gap analysis study to inform important policies aimed at ensuring that cases of sexual and gender-based violence are dealt with as efficiently as possible,” Koome said.
Regarding the upcoming elections, the CJ said there was a need to address issues related to promoting accountability for electoral abuses in order to ensure free, fair and credible elections.
She added that duty bearers should promote and protect human rights throughout the process and ensure criminals are held accountable.
“The concerned commissions, security forces and judiciary will discuss the elections because they are responsible for the core agencies charged with helping to conduct free, fair and credible elections,” CJ Koome said.