Establishment of the Southern African Judges Commission (SAJC)
The Venice Commission achieved a major step in its co-operation with constitutional courts and equivalent bodies in the Southern African region when the Southern African Judges Commission (SAJC) was established last Sunday in Johannesburg. The SAJC is composed of Chief Justices of constitutional and supreme courts from English and Portuguese speaking countries in the southern part of Africa ranging from Uganda to Republic of South Africa.
This Commission has been primarily established to foster close ties between the courts of the region in view of supporting each other in case of undue interference from the executive or legislative powers. Already before the formal creation of the SAJC, the presidents of the courts undertook action in favour of their peers in Swaziland and in Zimbabwe.
Another major aim of the Commission is to enable an exchange of information between the courts in the region but also with European courts and the public at large about their case-law in constitutional matters. By being able to make reference to similar decisions given by peer courts in other countries, the Commission should strengthen the ability of the Southern African courts to hand down decisions upholding democracy, human rights and the rule of law, which may at times displease other state powers.
The tool for this exchange is the CODICES database of the Venice Commission, which already contains more than 3900 summaries from constitutional courts and equivalent bodies in 60 countries in Europe and abroad (CD-ROM and http://codices.coe.int). On 28-29 November in Windhoek, Namibia, the Venice Commission held the second training seminar for liaison officers from the participating courts on the preparation of cases for their inclusion into CODICES.
The establishment of the Southern African Judges Commission is a result of the action undertaken by the Venice Commission within the framework of a co-operation programme, funded by the Norwegian and Swiss governments.