The names of the six Appeal Court and 17 High Court judges were published in a special issue of the Kenya Gazette yesterday.
The judges are suspended with immediate effect until the tribunals announced their findings.
Facing the tribunals will be Appeal judge Mr Justice Richard Kwach, who, himself previously chaired a committee which produced a report on the state of the Judiciary, Mr Justice A.B. Shah – one of the longest serving Appeal judges – and Mr Justice Daniel Aganyanya, who is currently sitting on the Goldenberg Commission.
Two tribunals have been set up by President Kibaki: one to hear evidence about the alleged misconduct of the Appeal judges, and one to hear the cases against their High Court colleagues.
Judges enjoy security of tenure and can be removed only by the President on the recommendation of a disciplinary tribunal. Or they can simply resign.
Tribunals are rare. The last was set up last March to consider allegations against former CJ Bernard Chunga. Mr Chunga, however, stepped down before the tribunal sat.
Allegations against the 23 judges now facing tribunals, range from taking a bribe of more than Sh15 million to buy off an entire bench of Appeal judges, to sexually harassing a female magistrate.
The accusations were detailed in the second part of the report by the committee chaired by Mr Justice Aaron Ringera, which looked into corruption within the Judiciary. Ringera is the former head of the Kenya Anti Corruption Authority, found there was “credible” and “well founded” evidence on a range of offences ranging from “direct corruption” and abuse of office, to “want of integrity”, “unethical conduct” and “judicial misbehaviour.”
The report was presented to Chief Justice Evan Gicheru, on October 3. He promised immediate action.
The CJ then quickly announced all judges adversely mentioned in the Ringera report would be given two weeks in which to resign, or if they chose to stay, to face disciplinary tribunals.
By last night, none of the judges had taken up the CJ’s offer of resignation. On the contrary, it was understood that two judges – one from the Appeal Court and one from the High Court – were preparing a legal challenge to the CJ’s decision.