International Development Law Organization

IDLO-supported Code of Conduct for Kenyan judges

Update (21 August 2017): The 2016 version of the Code of Conduct and Ethics signed by Former Chief Justice Mutunga was not tabled before the relevant House of Parliament within seven days after its publication and thus lapsed, in line with section 11 of the Statutory Instruments Act. IDLO continues working with the Kenya Judiciary Training Institute and the Judiciary’s Technical Committee to provide technical assistance towards the development and finalization of the revised Judicial Code of Conduct and Ethics by the end of 2017.

A Code of Conduct and Ethics for the Kenyan judiciary, developed by IDLO in collaboration with the Kenya Judiciary Training Institute and other experts, has been signed by the outgoing Kenyan Chief Justice, Willy Mutunga.

The Code sets out to govern the comportment of the judiciary, in terms of integrity, impartiality and professional independence, and aims to boost public confidence in the justice system. Every judge, judicial officer and member of staff of the judiciary will be required to sign and subscribe to it.

Justice Joel M Ngugi of the Kenyan High Court, and convener of the process as the former director of the Judiciary Training Institute, congratulated those who made it happen. ‘Thank you all for the committed, dedicated and inspired work on the Judiciary Code of Conduct,’ he said, ‘the path was torturous, demanding and, at times, nerve-wracking….but Kenyans and posterity will thank you for your dedicated service.’

The Code embodies the international standard for judicial ethics outlined in the Bangalore Principles of Judicial Conduct. A strong, independent and impartial judiciary is widely recognized as an integral part of upholding democracy and the rule of law; while guaranteeing fair trials and equal protection of people’s rights and freedoms under the law is key to generating public confidence in the justice system.

Corruption and lack of accountability within the judiciary in Kenya have been described by external observers as a serious impediment to the rule of law. A lack of understanding of judicial processes and appointments has also been blamed for eroding public confidence in the Kenyan judiciary.

The adoption of a new Judiciary Code of Conduct and Ethics was one of the requirements under the 2010 Constitution, which was drafted following ethnic violence in Kenya sparked by the 2007 disputed elections and which left around 1000 people dead.

Image: Kenyan High Court. Creative Commons