Supporting public participation in Kenya’s justice system
International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) Kenya
“Public participation is essential to democratic governance and in the administration of justice, and with the devolution in Kenya, the need for local solutions for local problems including in the administration of justice, is self-evident.” —ICJ
judges and magistrates serving 38 million people
October 2015 End date
In the last 5 years, Kenya has established Court Users Committees (CUCs): a forum that brings together actors in the administration of justice as well as users in the justice system to address problems within the sector and to coordinate responses to these problems by the Judiciary. CUCs have been lauded as the best vehicle for improving public participation in judicial processes, because they provide the opportunity to make the justice system more participatory and inclusive since the public is represented through institutional representations of all arms of government, civil society organizations and private sector groups.
However, Kenya’s justice system is still plagued by many problems that continue to undermine the realisation of justice for all. Many CUCs face challenges such as inconsistency in the participation of stakeholders, inadequate resourcing, lack of inclusiveness, poor communication, weak documentation capacity among other challenges, with the consequence that citizens don’t engage with these CUCs.
ICJ Kenya aims to improve the internal coordination of the CUCs and to enhance citizen engagement with CUCs. They are doing this by developing a case management system which will be accessible to the CUCs as well as the courts. They are also embedding messaging through SMS to notify court case parties on court dates among other notifications related to their cases. ICJ is also using technologies such as Frontline SMS and Whatsapp and social media to engage citizens on justice related issues. All information gathered from this engagement with citizens is fed back to courts in Eldoret and Kitui as well as the Chief Justices’ office to enable necessary changes to be made, and to inform policy and legislative proposals on issues around access to justice.
This project focusses on two CUCs (in Eldoret and Kitui), and has been developed in consultation with the Judiciary, including the two CUCs, and other key stakeholders in the delivery of justice.
ICJ-Kenya is a National Section of the International Commission of Jurists based in Nairobi, Kenya. Over 300 jurists’ members comprise the organization which is dedicated to the legal protection of human rights in Kenya. The human rights work of the organization is fulfilled by members through a permanent secretariat where a professional team of full time lawyers is in charge of programmatic activities under the oversight functions of the elected council.