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Judiciary fast-tracks operationalization of hate speech courts

The Judiciary has put in place a Judiciary Committee on Elections (JCE) to handle elections matters that will arise after the forthcoming General Elections.

Chief Justice Martha Koome said the Committee is implementing a comprehensive election preparedness work-plan that it has developed to ensure that the institution is positioned to discharge its mandate optimally.

“We have already embarked training of Judges and judicial officers on electoral offences and connected matters,” said Koome.

At the same time, she announced that a total of 120 Magistrates who were appointed in February this year to serve as Special Magistrates, will be mandated to hear and determine matters relating to offences under the Election Offences Act.

The CJ said the hearing of the cases will enable expeditious disposal of election offences matters that come to court, adding that the Judiciary will soon undertake a training programme for the Special Magistrates

Justice Koome who was speaking Monday during the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP) Staff Sensitization on Election Preparedness Workshop, held at the School of Government, announced that the Judiciary is also working on a plan of operationalizing special hate speech courts in the hot spot areas, to ensure expeditious resolution of such matters

She at same time called upon the ODPP, the National Cohesion and Integration Commission and the police to deal expeditious with hate speech matters.

“I issued a directive to Magistrates handling hate speech matters under the National Cohesion and Integration Act to finalize all pending hate speech matters within four months from February and I hope we will get the cooperation,” stressed the CJ.

She exuded confidence that there will be collaboration between the Judiciary and the ODPP in election preparedness, an effort she noted will enhance the effectiveness of institutions in the discharge of their common overarching mandate of ensuring that the country has an efficient and effective electoral justice system.

“It is crucial for institutions to be reading from the same script, given that we are both pursuing a shared constitutional vision of having an electoral system that is transparent, free, and fair,” said the CJ, adding that the participation of the Judiciary in the workshop has provided an opportunity for the institutions to read from the same script.

She noted that one of the main postulates of a democratic society is the conduct of peaceful, free, and fair elections, which are perceived as legitimate by the public and stakeholders in the electoral processes.

Justice Koome said fair, efficient, timely, and effective settlement of electoral disputes is a crucial component of achieving the goal of having a successful electoral process, noting that it is only when citizens and stakeholders view the Election Dispute Resolution (ERD) process as legitimate, transparent, and responsible that they will be willing to submit to the established EDR mechanisms.

She said given the complexity and sensitivity of electoral disputes and their implication for state stability and peaceful societal co-existence, all the successive stages of the EDR process, running from the pre-election to the post-election stage, must be carried out in a manner that garners the trust and confidence of the stakeholders and the public.

Under the Constitution of Kenya 2010, the Elections Act, and the Election Offences Act, the judicial resolution of election disputes at the pre-election and post-election stages has become a central pillar of the country’s electoral framework.

An issue, Koome noted demands that the Judiciary and other institutions involved in the electoral justice arena among them ODPP ensure readiness by equipping officers with the requisite skills, knowledge, and competences to enable them perform and discharge their mandate effectively.

The CJ lauded the ODPP for conducting the election preparedness sensitization programme, saying that it will ensure efficiency in the prosecution of election related offences, as well as protect the country’s democracy and the rule of law.

By Bernadette Khaduli

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