Recusal, impartiality feature at conference of Southern African Chief Justices

Recusal has increasingly often emerged as an issue sparking controversy in decisions from various regional jurisdictions. So it was appropriate that it became one of the main problems for debate during this year’s conference of the Southern African Chief Justices (SACJ), held in Seychelles. At the AGM of SACJ that followed, Tanzania was chosen as the venue for the 2020 conference.

The conference and annual general meeting of the Southern African Chief Justices’ Forum (SACJF) took place in Seychelles on the 28th and 29th of October 2019.
 
This year’s theme was “Without fear or favour: maintaining a strong, impartial, independent and accountable judiciary.” The conference was opened by Seychelles’ President Danny Faure.
 
The first session focused on judicial appointments and discussed the implementation of the Lilongwe Principles and Guidelines on the Selection and Appointment of Judicial Officers, adopted at the SACJF’s annual meeting in 2018.
 
Recusal was a major feature of the second session, when delegates wrestled with aspects of judicial impartiality and how to deal with conflicts of interest. Detailed debate by participants tried to identify best practice principles on judicial recusal and impartiality. Discussions from this session may lead to the development of more formal best practice principles on these issues, to be considered further by the SACJF in future meetings.
 
The second day of the meeting began with a focus on financial autonomy as part of judicial independence, with issues of adequate resourcing of judiciaries and judicial salaries featuring prominently in the discussions. 
 
In their final conference session, delegates dealt with the perpetual challenge of how to balance judicial independence with issues including judicial accountability. Problems posed by judicial immunity, the regulation of judicial conduct and the removal of judges from office were central to these discussions.
 
At the end of the conference, SACJF held its annual general meeting. Among other issues, members decided that the 2020 conference and annual general meeting will be held in Tanzania.