Statement / The CMJA, CLA and CLEA Joint Statement on the Tribunal set up in Kiribati to investigate High Court Judge David Lambourne


The CMJA, CLA and CLEA are concerned about the recent announcement that the Te Beretitenti (The President of Kiribati) has set up a Tribunal, to investigate “complaints and allegations from the public” against High Court Judge Lambourne.

The setting up of a tribunal to investigate a judge who has security of tenure must be consistent with the rule of law, constitutional safeguards and international standards in particular the Commonwealth (Latimer House) Principles on the Accountability and Relationship between the Three Branches of Government as embodied in the Commonwealth Charter. The lack of transparency as to the timing and the membership of the Tribunal, is of great concern. The Commonwealth (Latimer House) Principles provide that ‘Disciplinary proceedings which might lead to the removal of a judicial officer should include appropriate safeguards to ensure fairness’ that is to say, the right to be fully informed of all allegations, to be able to attend as well as be represented at any hearing, to make a full defence and to be judged by an independent and impartial tribunal. Members of the judiciary like other members of society may not be subjected to violations of their fundamental human rights no matter what the alleged charges are against them.

However, Judge Lambourne has been prevented not only from performing the functions of his office in recent months but more recently in making preparations and in participating in his own defence in the manner prescribed as he has not been able to return to Kiribati as a result of the suspension of authority to travel imposed by government authorities in Kiribati, contrary to natural justice.

Whilst Article 83 of the Kiribati Constitution provides for the suspension of judges pending an investigation, the UN Basic Principles on the Independence of Judges provide that:

“The term of office of judges, their independence, security, adequate remuneration, conditions of service, pensions and the age of retirement shall be adequately secured by law……Judges, whether appointed or elected, shall have guaranteed tenure until a mandatory retirement age or the expiry of their term of office, where such exists.”.

The suspension of Judge Lambourne’s remuneration and allowances prior to the outcome of the investigation by the Tribunal is contrary to these Principles and is not in line with the High Court Judges (Salaries and Allowances) Act 2017and the Judicial Salaries and Allowances Regulations 2018.

By virtue of its membership of the Commonwealth, Kiribati is committed to the shared fundamental values and principles of the Commonwealth, at the core of which is a shared belief in, and adherence to, democratic principles including an independent and impartial judiciary. Any measure which is capable of being seen as eroding the independence and impartiality of the judiciary, or the fundamental rights that they are entitled to as citizens or residents of Kiribati, including members of the judiciary with security of tenure, is a matter of grave concern.

The Associations strongly urge the Government and Parliament of Kiribati to respect the independence of the judiciary and to comply with the relevant constitutional provisions, Commonwealth Principles. other relevant international standards and natural justice in any investigation of the purported “complaints and allegations” by permitting Judge Lambourne direct access to the Tribunal to be able to respond to any allegations made.

Commonwealth Magistrates’ and Judges’ Association (CMJA)
Commonwealth Legal Education Association (CLEA)
Commonwealth Lawyers Association (CLA)

25th May 2022


The Commonwealth Magistrates’ and Judges’ Association is a not for profit organisation, registered in the UK, whose aims are to promote judicial independence, advance education in the law, the administration of justice the treatment of offenders and the prevention of crime in the Commonwealth. It brings together judicial officers of all ranks from all parts of Commonwealth and provides a forum for the promotion of the highest judicial standards at all levels.

The Commonwealth Legal Education Association is an international non-profit organisation which
fosters and promotes high standards of legal education in the Commonwealth. Founded in 1971, it is a Commonwealth-wide body with regional Chapters and Committees in South Asia, Southern Africa, West Africa, the Caribbean and the UK.

The Commonwealth Lawyers Association is an international non-profit organisation which exists to promote and maintain the rule of law throughout the Commonwealth by ensuring that an independent and efficient legal profession, with the highest standards of ethics and integrity, serves the people of the Commonwealth.

View the Full Statement Here