EACJ Concludes Longest Ever Session Since Inception

Arusha, 14 February 2013: The East African Court of Justice Thursday ended its longest sessions ever, which began on 14 January and wound up 14 February 2013.

In its two Divisions (Appellate and First Instance), the Court entertained 30 matters in total, including; 22 References and Applications; four Taxation matters; three Rulings and one Judgment.

Among these, the Court dismissed an Application filed by the EAC Secretary General, seeking permission to file his appeal out of time from the judgment the Court delivered on 30 June 2010 in favor of Hon. Sitenda Sebalu. According to the EACJ Rules of Procedure the notice of appeal against a judgment must be lodged within 30 days after the judgment has been made.

Hon. Sebalu had sought a declaration against the EAC that the delay to vest the East African Court of Justice with the extended jurisdiction is in contravention of the Treaty. The Court in its ruling today, stated that the Applicant (EAC Secretary General) did not give sufficient reasons for his delay to justify the exercise of the Court’s discretion to extend time for filing his appeal.

The First Instance Division also allowed the United Republic of Tanzania to file a response to a matter concerning the elections of Tanzanian representatives to the East African Legislative Assembly.

The case was brought to the Court by Mr. Anthony Calist Komu, a member of the Chama cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo (CHADEMA) political party, who unsuccessfully contested for EALA membership and proceeded to file a case challenging the process of the said elections on grounds that it violated the provision of Article 50 of the Treaty for the Establishment of the East African Community.

In addition, the Court delivered a judgment in a case regarding allegations that the protocols for the EAC Customs Union and Common Market are inconsistent with the EAC Treaty, because they purport to oust the (original) jurisdiction of the East African Court of Justice in matters relating to the East African Community regional integration processes and granting it to the Partner States, national courts, administrative and legislative authorities.

The Court did not find in favor of the positions taken by either party in the case. However it concluded that the dispute settlement mechanisms created under the protocols do not exclude, oust or infringe upon its interpretative jurisdiction. And that both protocols are not in contravention or in contradiction of the Treaty.

The increased workload of cases being handled by the Court indicates improved building of trust and confidence in the Court.

The increase in the number of cases demands full time presence of the judges especially those of the First Instance Division to start with. In an attempt to address this challenge, the Court introduced a one-week Court session per month for each division but the results were not encouraging as the workload kept growing.

It later introduced a two-week session per month but it also did not seem to address this challenge. The Court has now begun a one month session quarterly to dispose off a number of cases that have been pending.

The permanent residency of the President and Principal Judge who are now working on full-time basis has enabled the Court to work more efficiently.

The cooperation between EACJ and the national courts, has also greatly contributed to the efficiency of the Court and the Court commends the Chief Justices who willingly accepted and allowed the Judges to come to Arusha for such a long time, despite the busy schedules in their respective Courts.

On 12 February 2013, EACJ also started discussing the modalities of how to deal with its first arbitration case ever. This is a labor dispute filed by a former employee of the East African Law Society for allegedly terminating her work contract and she is seeking the Court to arbitrate on the matter for her compensation.

The Registrar of the EACJ Prof. Dr. John Eudes Ruhangisa says this is a cost effective way to resolve disputes.

About the East African Court of Justice

The East African Court of Justice (EACJ or the Court), is one of the organs of the East African Community established under Article 9 of the Treaty for the Establishment of the East African Community. Established in November 2001, the Court’s major responsibility is to ensure the adherence to law in the interpretation and application of and compliance with the EAC Treaty.

Any person who is resident in an EAC Partner State may refer for determination by the East African Court of Justice, the legality of any Act, directive, decision or action of a Partner State or an Institution of the Community on the grounds that such Act, regulation, directive or action is unlawful or is an infringement of the Treaty and proceedings are instituted within two months of the act complained of or of the day in which it came to his/her knowledge. The Court also has arbitration jurisdiction.

Decisions of the Court on the interpretation and application of the Treaty take precedence over decisions of national courts on a similar matter.

For more information please contact:

Prof. John Ruhangisa, Registrar
Email: ruhangisa@eachq.org

Ms. Geraldine Umugwaneza, Deputy Registrar
Email: umugwaneza@eachq.org

Owora Richard Othieno, Head of Department;
Corporate Communications and Public Affairs;
EAC Secretariat
Tel: +255 784 835021; Email: othieno@eachq.org

East African Court of Justice
Arusha, Tanzania

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