Ordinary citizens have no access to justice, says justice expert

The Observatory for Government Action (OAG) alongside the Association of Catholic Jurists of Burundi (AJCB) calls on Burundi Government to increase the budget allocated to the Ministry of Justice to ensure that total population has access to justice.

Participants in a press conference organized by OAG along with AJCB

Participants in a press conference organized by OAG along with AJCB

A large number of the Burundian population does not have access to justice, reveals a study conducted by OAG and AJCB. The Burundian judiciary lacks financial means. Low income litigants face a lot of problems when defending their rights in courts while the Burundian constitution provides for all the citizens the right to fair justice, said justice expert Michel Masabo on 10 October.

He said the Burundian Justice system is not accessible to all litigants. Prof. Masabo calls on the Government to mobilize more resources for the Ministry of Justice in order to help individuals to have access to justice especially by allocating a budget to the translation of legal texts into the national language ‘Kirundi’ and providing training for justice actors,’ said Masabo. “Otherwise there is a risk of settlement of account and popular justice, “he added.

For this justice expert, regardless of the low economic growth prevailing in Burundi the, funds would be available if the Government made the Justice Ministry its priority.

Boaz Nimpe, Public finance expert, said the ministry is facing the challenge of access to justice by litigants. “Infrastructures are not enough, prisoners are living in difficult conditions due to the lack of subsidies,” said the expert in public finance.

For him, every citizen who pays taxes should benefit from public services. He also said the litigants had sometimes to pay fuel for judges to have their judgment passed.

Nimpe said the Burundian government should include the Ministry of Justice in its priorities. “It is rare that the budget allocated to the Ministry of Justice reaches 2% of the total expenditure of the State budget. The annual budget for the financial year 2016 was BIF 1326 billion.

The Director General of the Ministry of Justice, Ntakimazi Venant, said the service in charge of assisting indigent persons receives a budget of BIF 4, 600,000 per year. “This year we assisted 30 indigent people,” he said adding that 5,000 indigent others already enrolled will be assisted by the Ministry with the support of its partners by 2018.