Roundtable:  Threats to the independence of the judiciary – cross-regional perspectives

Courts are growing increasingly powerful all over the world. While independent and robust courts can secure democratic governance and protect citizens’ rights and wellbeing, dependent and weak judiciaries exacerbate injustice and inequality. They have validated – and prohibited – presidential re-elections in Latin America; supported – and condemned – military coups in Asia; enforced – and sanctioned – asylum practices in Europe; and legalized – or criminalized – same-sex relations in Africa. Even though the lack of judicial independence and integrity has been for a long time on the agenda in fragile democracies; nowadays, there is an increasing interest on this topic in consolidated democracies. What are the similarities and difference when we talk about the threats of judicial independence between fragile and consolidated democracies? How problematic is the lack of judicial independence and corruption between these groups of countries? Which are the most common strategies that politicians have triggered to manipulate the independence of the judiciary? And how can this problem be improved in the future?

Introduction by Andrea Castagnola in dialogue with Roberto Gargarella (Universidad Torcuato Di Tella, Argentina), Edge Kanyongolo (University of Malawi), Sofie Schütte (CMI, Norway) and Anne Horn  (Judge, Bergen City Court,  Norway),  who shared their experience and knowledge from Latin American, Scandinavian and African cases

Watch the debate:


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Prof Roberto Gargarella is a distinguished Argentine and sociologist and the author of numerous works on theories of democracy, political and legal philosophy. His last two books are The legal foundations of inequality (Cambridge UP 2010) and Latin American Constitutionalism (Oxford UP 2013). Roberto has doctoral degrees from Universidad de Buenos Aires (1991) and University of Chicago (1993) and Master Degrees from FLACSO (1990) and the University of Chicago (LLM, 1992). He pursued post-doctoral studies at Balliol College, Oxford, under the supervision of Professor Joseph Raz (1994), where he also worked with Professor G.A. Cohen, pursuing collaborative research with a group of ‘Analytical Marxists’, which he had begun in the US, together with Professors Jon Elster and Adam Przeworski. Roberto Gargarella is CONICET fellow and Professor of Law at Torcuato Di Tella, and Buenos Aires Universities in Argentina and has held visiting professorships at leading universities in Europe and the Americas including Harvard and Columbia (USA), ITAM (Mexico) Pompeu Fabra (Spain), Genoa (Italy) Oslo and Bergen (Norway). In 2014 he was the Leverhulme Trust Visiting Professor at University College London. Roberto is a long-term CMI affiliated researcher and a founding member and Global Fellow of the Centre on Law & Social Transformation.

Fidelis Edge KanyongoloBorn on 3 July 1962 Blantyre, Malawi, Fidelis Edge Kanyongolo is a Malawian national who has taught at the University of Malawi since 1986. He obtained his LL.B (hons.), LL.M and Ph.D degrees from the Universities of Malawi, Cambridge and East Anglia. He is currently an Associate Professor of Law specializing in constitutional law and legal theory. His research interests focus on the interplay of law and politics, especially in the framework of constitutionalism, democratic governance and development. He has also participated actively in human rights advocacy programmes in southern Africa, including in his capacity as a trustee of the Media Institute of Southern Africa, a member of the Advisory Board of the Africa Programme of Article 19 and a member of the Board of Directors of the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA).

Sofie Schütte leads U4’s thematic work the Justice Sector and Anti-Corruption Agencies. From 2004 to 2008 she worked as an advisor for the Partnership for Governance Reform in Indonesia (United Nations Development Program) and as an integrated expert for the Indonesian Corruption Eradication Commission in Jakarta. Her short-term country work experiences include Afghanistan, Benin, Bhutan, Cambodia, Kenya, Kosovo, Malawi, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia. She holds a Master’s degree in Southeast Asian Studies, Business & Economics, and Sociology from the University of Passau, Germany. In 2012, Sofie Schütte completed her PhD on the Indonesian Corruption Eradication Commission at the University of Melbourne.