Carlos Mondlane has been president of the Mozambican Judges Association since 2015. With experience in various parts of the country, the judge traces the diagnosis of justice in Mozambique, pointing out the main challenges. Mondlane believes that investment in the training of judges needs to be reinforced, since the country has only 140 professionals of this class, as well as granting financial autonomy to the courts. It also says that knowledge of the functioning of justice is deficient in Mozambique and that, as a rule, people do not have contact with institutions. Follow the interview.
What is the health of justice in Mozambique?
The state of justice in Mozambique is challenging. One of the thermometers we have to measure justice in Mozambique is the press. Just watch what happens every day on television, on the radio, in the newspapers. The people’s perception of justice, which is not necessarily mine, is that the justice sector is a sector which, in itself, is as if it were under a black cloak, that no one notices what the doers of justice in the Day-to-day make and what results show.
Qualitative or quantitative performance?
From a quantitative point of view, and from a qualitative point of view, I think performance is on a rising trend, in an increasingly positive trend. For the first time, in the last two years, in relation to the number of cases that are filed, the courts have been able to finish more cases than the ones that give entry.
How do you see this lack or weak information about the activity of the judges in Mozambique?
As a rule, in Mozambique, people do not have much contact with institutions. The great gain we had to reverse this picture was the recent approval of the law on access to information. From there, people can begin to see how institutions, especially public ones, work. As far as the courts are concerned, there is a prospect of detachment from our citizens, where the court is seen as a frightening entity, so people are not quite sure how it works.
How do you explain that the judges have a special treatment, in the sense of having a vacation of two months, when there are still many pending cases in our country, above 150 thousand?
There are no legal holidays, what happens is that the name holiday court is misleading. If we look at our law of judicial organization, it is established there that judicial vacations run during the period of the month of January and February, are two months. But judicial holidays, when I say they do not exist, do not exist in the sense that the courts close and the judges go on vacation for two months. In fact, it is a period that is devoted to the internal organization of the activities of the courts.
The slowness of justice is a reality in our country. In popular slang, late justice is not justice …
Our concern, as judges, is to achieve a zero pendency. That every citizen who has a problem goes to court and, in a timely manner, justice is done. And that is why every day, in Mozambique, the men and women who wear the toga are beaten to make it so. But, also, we must realize that Mozambique has a problem, right now, that has to do with investment in the area of justice. We are about 140 judges today in Mozambique to judge in a country where the number of the population is about 24 million. The ratio of the number of judges to the population is about one judge per 100,000 inhabitants. The United Nations says that the ideal is one judge for every 18,000 inhabitants. So imagine that a judge, potentially, has, according to the number of pending cases we have today, about 800 pending cases. And the activity of judging is an activity that, above all, affects the cognitive capacity of the person, requires a certain concentration.
This statistic is very favorable to accommodate this argument of slowness of justice. But are not all Mozambicans involved in cases that justify recourse to the courts?
I am talking about the ratio between the number of judges and the population. The more people we have, the more likely there is conflict, and this conflict, directly or indirectly, will culminate in the courts. But today, we have about 800 potentially pending cases for each judge, what does that mean? That is to say, there must be an investment, for example, in human resources, in order to reduce the pending issue that is attached to each judge.
What does the state still have to do to improve the working conditions of judges?
We need to strengthen the justice sector itself with more judges. We are few. The number of judges in Mozambique, for what is demand from development itself, is not enough.
What is the expected change in the immediate?
First, an increase in the budget for the functioning of the courts. Because an increase in the budget will mean, for example, the hiring of judges.
The ideal, in fact, would be 100%, but I’m realistic. Looking at the reality of the country, the State can not, in a single trial, make this increase. But there has to be a certain proportion, which allows the state itself to subsist and receive more and more judges, to face the problems of crime and not only. It was important that we had court representations across the country.
The baron of the Bar Association said that it was time to end this perception that justice is stronger for the weak and weak for the strong …
One of the reasons that an apparent explanation of justice may often seem to oppress the weak has to do with the ability of the forts themselves to be able to provide themselves with the full fountain of defense that often a person who has fewer possessions does not Can have For example, when a crime or any type of litigation occurs, a person of improved social standing can hire the best lawyers. These best lawyers can use any kind of defense argument and it may seem that the entire judicial machine ends up yielding to this group of procedural entities, unlike a subject who ends up benefiting from legal assistance from a body such as IPAJ, with all Limitations.
What is your comment for the trial of Josina Machel?
I’m not going to talk about the Josina Machel affair, any more than I’m going to talk about any particular case. I will not speak because it is unethical for me to comment on the cases which have been tried by my colleagues. But the judge, when he judges, is subject to a certain normative framework of the laws that aim to caution the situation that was placed for him to appreciate. This is how the judge judges, this is how the judge decides, depending on the elements that are brought.
Is the Superior Council of Judicial Magistracy able to assess these responsibilities on the part of the judges, without depending on the accusations of the lawyers?
For the board to be able to apply whatever the sanction, it has to be communicated. If the lawyer or any party that feels injured by an act of indiscipline of the judge does not get to the board, will not be aware and, having no knowledge, has no way to sanction the judge, then this is one of the reasons.
It has become clear that there is a popular perception or a popular criticism, and even of the Police, that the judges or the courts release bandits. What is the answer to this review?
To begin with, only the judge, outside situations of flagrante delicto, only the judge has the right to arrest, today, in Mozambique. There was a judgment issued by the Constitutional Council that disciplined the issue of prisons, because what was in Mozambique was an exaggerated and even abusive use of the prisons issue, anyone could arrest. Then, there was a judgment of the Constitutional Council that went on to limit that in those situations in which there is no flagrante delicto, for there to be arrest, only the judge could order. And why is it only the judge? Because the judge is the holder of an organ of sovereignty and, therefore, is the most qualified entity to be able to limit a fundamental right of a citizen, that is freedom. It can not be anyone to limit freedom to the person. Freedom is the rule, deprivation of liberty is an exception.
What kind of protection should judges or even lawyers having relatively complex cases have from the state?
The judge dealing with so-called hot processes feels a need to have special protection. It must be endowed, at least during the time in which it is in process of human security, and must fundamentally realize that, in the chaos of imminent danger, to whom it may appeal.
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