The European Union (EU) and United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) are in support of the Judiciary’s move to mainstream alternative justice systems.

Chief Justice David Maraga recently launched a policy to mainstream customary, or traditional, forms of justice in Kenya which has been supported by the EU and UNODC.

The Alternative Justice Systems (AJS) Baseline Policy and associated Policy Framework have symbolically been released on Katiba Day on the 10th anniversary of the promulgation of the Constitution of Kenya. The Constitution puts an obligation on the Judiciary to promote traditional methods of dispute resolution.

For the past two years, the EU and UNODC have supported the Judiciary and its multi-stakeholder Task Force on the Traditional, Informal and Other Mechanisms for Dispute Resolution in Kenya (AJS Task Force) with formulating the policy and determining the viability and concrete means of mainstreaming AJS.

Speaking at the live-streamed launch at the Supreme Court, the Chief Justice, David Maraga said: “Today I am glad to launch the Policy that outlines how we can promote Alternative Justices Systems in Kenya. The formulation of the Policy marks an important milestone in Kenya’s endeavour towards the fulfilment, respect, observance, promotion and protection of the right to Access to Justice,” adding that “The Policy gives effect to Article 159(2)(c) of the Constitution, which is the legal and constitutional framework 7 on the multiple systems for dispute resolutions in Kenya.”

EU Ambassador to Kenya, Mr. Simon Mordue said he hoped the AJS Policy would have far-reaching consequences in fostering effective access to justice for all Kenyans.

“What’s being launched today is a cornerstone policy for Kenya, one that will ultimately bring customary and traditional means of dispute resolution from the periphery into the mainstream and recognize the legitimate place of alternative systems in contemporary justice administration in this country,” Ambassador Mordue said.

As key partners to the Judiciary in this policy’s development, the EU and UNODC have provided wide-ranging support through the Programme for Legal Empowerment and Aid Delivery in Kenya (PLEAD). This has included engaging several expert consultants who reinforced the Task Force and assisted with the policy and framework drafting processes, staging more than eight working retreats and discussion forums, and communications support including video production, graphic design and printing services.

In upholding international standards and norms, UNODC has taken great interest in the policy’s intent and content, for example, on such aspects as protection of the most vulnerable and the nature of cases appropriate for AJS, including contributing to the debate on cases of Sexual and Gender Based Violence.

Kenyans from all walks of life have contributed to shaping the AJS Baseline Policy, including Councils of Elders, Civil Society Organisations and Court Users Committees, and are now expected to be instrumental in operationalizing it.

Alternative justice processes (AJS) is the administration of justice by the people using their culture, customary law, practices and beliefs to resolve disputes. AJS is a form of restorative justice, aims to ensure social inclusion, and is generally more affordable, participatory and more expeditious than court processes. Alternative justice processes help to reduce the burden on courts and are meant to strengthen the links between formal and informal justice systems rather than replace the reliance on courts.