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Cablegate: Senegal-the Return of the Supreme Court

VZCZCXRO1538
PP RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHDK #0451 1091016
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 181016Z APR 08
FM AMEMBASSY DAKAR
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0343
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

UNCLAS DAKAR 000451

SIPDIS

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

DEPT FOR AF/W, AF/RSA, DRL AND INR/AA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PINS KDEM ECON SG
SUBJECT: SENEGAL-THE RETURN OF THE SUPREME COURT

REF: 07 DAKAR 2334

1. (SBU) Summary: On April 8, the Senegalese National Assembly
passed a law reforming the judicial system to reinstate a Supreme
Court. According to the government, this will streamline the system
by allowing budgetary savings and harmonizing jurisprudence. The
Association of Judges called the reform a "prehistoric" move to
reward a coterie of judges devoted to the ruling party. End
Summary.

The Supreme Court is back
-------------------------
2. (SBU) Law 20-2008, creating the Supreme Court, merged the former
"Cour de Cassation" and the Council of State. The Cour de Cassation
was the highest Court of Appeals for criminal and civil cases while
the Council of State had jurisdiction over Administrative and
pre-electoral litigation. One of the key results of the reform is
that the Head of State will appoint the President of the Supreme
Court who, as head of the judicial branch, will from now on be his
sole interlocutor.


The French model
----------------

3. (SBU) From its independence in 1960 to 1992, Senegal had a
Supreme Court that was highly respected by Senegalese people. But
in 1992, arguing that judges needed specialization, President Diouf
eliminated the Supreme Court and introduced a French model, which
includes four high courts: the Cour de Cassation, the Council of
State, the Constitutional Council, and the Accounting Court.

A Hybrid System
---------------

4. (SBU) Unlike the unified model of the '60s, the new Supreme
Court will not rule on constitutional issues, which remain under the
jurisdiction of the Constitutional Council. The Accounting Court,
responsible for ensuring transparent use of public funds, will also
remain a separate jurisdiction. This reform eliminates the duality
of jurisdictions at the apex of the judiciary. In France, the legal
system is dual with, on the one hand, judicial courts and, on the
other, administrative courts. Senegal has unity in its lower courts
but duality in its highest-level administrative and judicial courts.
Now the unity of the whole system has been restored. The
government has indicated that this is a first step in the reform and
did not rule unifying all courts under one Supreme Court.

Association of Judges Against Reform
------------------------------------

5. (SBU) The National Association of Judges considers the reform a
step backward. They argue that instead the government should create
lower level administrative and regional accounting courts. Regional
accounting courts would then allow for the verification of the
accounts of local governments, which the current Accounting Court
based in Dakar cannot do with its limited resources and large
responsibilities. Deflecting criticism of this reform, President
Wade himself said that the Council of State has only ruled on eleven
cases in 2007 and that it was so inefficient that he could not
justify its existence as a separate jurisdiction.

Comment
-------

6. (SBU) The move to bring back the Supreme Court is part of the
symbolic response that the government is giving to those demanding
the streamlining of government operations. It has the merit of
restoring unity as Senegalese institutions are not robust enough to
warrant a separate system of administrative courts as in France.
However, the reform fails to address the deep problems of
corruption, the lack independence of judges, interference of the
Executive branch, and administrative inefficiency. The most needed
reform is the elimination of the High Conference of the Judiciary
(Haut Conseil de la magistrature); a body that is chaired by the
Head of State and which manages the careers of judges (reftel).
Without this reform, the judiciary will remain under the firm
control of the Executive thus perpetuating doubts as to its
independence and immunity from influence. End Comment.

SMITH

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