News and Information

Political agitation against judiciary under fire
July 22, 2004

THE sort of critical public statements that followed Judge Elton Hoff's discharge of 13 suspects from the Caprivi high treason case earlier this year were slammed by a senior Supreme Court Judge yesterday

"Such conduct undermines the integrity of the judicial system, the independence of the courts and their ability to conduct a fair trial," stated acting Judge of Appeal Bryan O'Linn in his judgement.

He referred to the "outburst of emotion and criticism and even hate speech from various influential quarters" that followed Judge Hoff's February 23 ruling.

One of the most vocal and vociferous critics of the ruling was Swapo's Youth League Secretary Paulus Kapia.

He accused Judge Hoff of trying to sabotage peace in Namibia, called him "a wrong judge in a right court", and claimed that the judge did not rule according to the expectations of the majority of the population and as a result he had to "pack up and go".

The decision in which the Botswana High Court ruled in December 2002 that another 13 high treason suspects were not to be extradited to Namibia was "a stark and timely reminder" to at all times abstain from outside interference - political or otherwise - in the judicial system and to maintain the integrity of the system, Judge O'Linn stated in his judgement yesterday.

He noted that one of the grounds for the Botswana High Court's decision was its finding that there was a likelihood that if the 13 were extradited to Namibia they might be punished extra-judicially because of their political opinions.

What prompted the Botswana court to come to such a conclusion was evidence that there had been demonstrations in Namibia - also involving the Swapo Youth League - and also calls in parliament by Swapo MPs in which death threats were made against high treason suspects.

Acting Judge of Appeal O'Linn cautioned: "The continuation of conduct such as referred to, will not only negatively reflect on the true values of Namibians, but discredit the Namibian legal system and the ability to ensure a fair trial by an impartial and independent court."

That could eventually imperil the trial of not only the 13 high treason accused whose discharge from the treason case was overturned by the Supreme Court yesterday, but of all the accused in the case, Judge O'Linn warned.

Source: TheNamibian newspaper

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