CJ views work progress on new courthouse


Work is progressing well on the Palais de Justice

The project to build the new courthouse, to be named Palais de Justice, is being funded by the Chinese government and the contractor is Qingjian Construction International.

CJ Egonda-Ntende was shown around the building -- whose structure covers an area of 7,600 square metres -- by a company representative and interpreter as well as by the project officer, Patrick Moustache.

The whole building, bounded on the north side by the lagoon running parallel to Pointe Conan, consists of two floors and an attic to house the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal.
There will be escalators to move from one floor to another.

Completion is set for December, but Mr Moustache said it will be ready for occupation by April 2013.

CJ Egonda-Ntende was taken on a tour of the building which will have three blocks housing eight courtrooms of the Supreme Court and one master courtroom as well as another large courtroom for the Court of Appeal. He was shown the Chief Justice’s chambers and secretarial offices attached to it.

The chief justice viewing work progress on the new courthouse

Other facilities include a large meeting room, registry and administration offices, IT room, as well as separate cells on the ground floor for male and female detainees.

Provision has also been made for waiting areas for separate groups of witnesses attending court.
The main function of the Palais de Justice is to improve the working environment of the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal. There are more facilities which are more spacious.

By yesterday, all the foundation work, superstructure and block work was finished. The roofing is partially done, being of concrete, though the middle consists of sky lights, made of 12mm glass to allow more lighting into the attic, said Mr Moustache.

He said the attic is large and high enough to allow for future extension of the court facilities. Yesterday, workmen were still plastering some internal walls.

Magistrate court rooms will later be built on the same site.
Commenting on his tour, CJ Egonda-Ntende said he was impressed with the work done to date. He said he had seen the designs, but now he was seeing these translated into reality.

CJ Egonda-Ntende hailed the symbolism that the Palais de Justice -- which will house the judiciary -- will be located near the National Assembly.

“They make the legislation and we implement them,” he said, adding that this was good to ensure the checks and balances between the two arms of the State.

Noting that for the first time there will be a purpose built courthouse, CJ Egonda-Ntende said the better and more spacious facilities will be good not only for the judges and court officers, but also serve people from outside.

CJ Egonda-Ntende dispelled suggestions that the judiciary is under pressure from the National Assembly concerning the backlog of cases.

“It is the judiciary that has championed the need to deal with such backlog,” he said. 
He noted that on March 7 he had launched the Computer Case Administration System to collect case date and monitor the backlog.

“We now know what the backlog is and what judges are doing about it,” he said, adding that previously there was no such information.

CJ Egonda-Ntende however said the judiciary still operates under several constraints, including the need for more judges and magistrates.

Responding to allegations that the judiciary has not been severe enough in dealing with convicted criminals, he noted that there was an already huge prison population -- from 168 in 2001 to nearly 500 presently. Nearly all the inmates have been sentenced by the courts, he said.

CJ Egonda-Ntende said the judicial system provides for the correction of any mistakes.

“Anyone dissatisfied with a ruling by a magistrate’s court, can for instance go to the Supreme Court and ultimately to the Court of Appeal. There is ample scope for a revision of jurisdiction,” he said.