Maputo and Geneva (10 December 2010) - The United Nations' Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Gabriela Knaul, undertook a visit to Mozambique from 6 to 10 December 2010 at the invitation of the Government. The visit was a continuation of a prior visit undertaken from August 26 to September 4, which was suspended on September 1st.
"Today, December 10, is the international day of human rights. For me, it is very emblematic to conclude my visit to Mozambique on this day, as my mandate is at the core of the effective protection of human rights for all", said Ms. Knaul at the conclusion of her visit.
"The prominent place that the Constitution of Mozambique gives to the independence of the judiciary should be reflected daily in the justice system" stressed the expert, while highlighting that "the major challenge for the independence of the judiciary in Mozambique is to be fully operational and depoliticized so that judicial decisions be based on facts and in accordance with the law, without undue influences, inducements, pressures, threats or interferences, whether direct or indirect".
She explained: "During my visit, there were indications that membership of the ruling party, in power since 1975, is sometimes a de facto prerequisite for access to the public administration, including the judicial career, as well as for career advancement and job security. These, coupled with the lack of an effective system of checks and balances place considerable obstacles to the development of a truly impartial judiciary. I encourage the Government of Mozambique to redouble efforts to ensure justice for all through an independent judiciary."
The expert praised the Government for a number of encouraging initiatives for the justice sector, within the framework for development and poverty reduction such as Agenda 2025, the 5-year Plan of Government, the Plan for the reduction of extreme poverty and the Economic and Social Plan.
"Mozambique, with the support of the international community, is assessing the progress made in achieving key goals for the justice sector. These efforts are a great opportunity to revisit crucial issues for the improvement of the administration of justice and the independence and transparence of the judiciary. They also bring momentum to reflect on the challenges ahead for future planning and prioritization as well as for the modernization and automation of the justice sector " stressed the expert.
The Special Rapporteur also encouraged the Central Office for Combating Corruption to contribute to create a culture of accountability, and called this entity to reinforce its efforts to investigate and bring to justice persons found guilty of corruption.
She recognized the continued efforts made to establish the "Justice Centers" (“Palacios da Justiça”) aimed at facilitating information flow among the actors of the justice system and speeding up legal proceedings, making justice more accessible for people. She also underscored the importance of the work carried out by the Maputo-based Center for Legal and Judicial Training, the mission of which is to provide quality training to legal professionals and the Institute for Legal Assistance and Representation (IPAJ), which contributes to bring justice closer to those in need of financial support.
"I invite the international community to assist the Government of Mozambique in strengthening good governance and justice, particularly to undertake a thorough assessment of information management needs, including a possible plan of modernization for the tribunals".
During the totality of her mission, Ms. Knaul visited the cities of Maputo, Nampula and Beira as well as the district of Meconta. She met with a wide range of interlocutors including representatives of the Government, the judiciary, civil society, the UN, the academia and members of the diplomatic community. She will submit a report on her visit to the June 2011 session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva.
Ms. Knaul took functions as Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers on 1 August 2009. In that capacity, she acts independently from any government or organization. Ms. Knaul has a long-standing experience as a judge in Brazil and is an expert in criminal justice and the administration of judicial systems.
Learn more about the mandate and work of the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/judiciary/index.htm
OHCHR Country page – Mozambique: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/countries/AfricaRegion/Pages/MZIndex.aspx
For more information and media requests, please contact Gustavo Mahoque, UNDP office in Mozambique (Tel: + 258 21 481 435, email firstname.lastname@example.org and/or Geneva, e-mail: email@example.com)