Being brought up by an administrator father meant moving from one place to another. And in moving, the Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji had to change schools, so often.
Mr Haji was born in Malindi and attended several primary schools before joining Kabarak High School and Greenstead High School in Nakuru. He later proceeded to Bronet College in Canada for his A’ levels.
Last week, the second DPP under the 2010 constitution was named the 2021 Jurist of the Year. He joins the ranks of Dr Gibson Kamau Kuria, law scholar Prof Yash Pal Ghai, former Chief Justice Willy Mutunga, senior counsels Paul Muite and late Nzamba Kitonga and Court of Appeal judge Mumbi Ngugi, who have been recognised for their contribution towards the promotion of human rights, rule of law and democracy.
When receiving the award, Mr Haji paid tribute to among others, his late father Yusuf Haji, a long term serving public officer and later Garissa Senator, for instilling in him the value of hard work, diligence and service to the nation.
“The values that he taught me have carried me over the years and have enabled my service to the nation with integrity,” he said.
The Kenyan Section of the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ Kenya), which organises the award since it was started in 1993, said Mr Haji has been recognised nationally, celebrated regionally, and internationally for his tenacity amid great adversity.
“In the last four years of transformative leadership, our Jurist has left no stone unturned to ensure the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions transformed into a professional and progressive 21st -century public prosecution authority,” ICJ said.
Mr Haji, the ICJ noted, has achieved several milestones, adopting robust policies and strategic initiatives that have enhanced prosecution services, strengthened interagency coordination, regional and international net and promoted access to justice, restoring confidence in the criminal justice sector.
Some of the policies and guidelines that have come to fruition under Mr Haji’s tenure include, developing guidelines on the Decision to Charge (2019), which has safeguarded the DPP’s independence, powers and functions; Diversion Policy, (2019), which has helped decongest prisons and reduce case backlog; the Plea-Bargaining Guidelines, (2019); the Excellence Charter 2020-2023; the Standard Operating Procedures on Investigation and Prosecution of Serious Human Rights Violations Committed by Police Officers; and the Prosecutor’s Guide to Children in the Criminal Justice System.
Recently, Mr Haji launched the Prosecution Training Institute’s Diploma in Public Prosecutions, a one-year course geared at teaching the elements of prosecution and the Standard Operating Procedure Manual and Rapid Reference Guide on Prosecution of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) cases.
“This timely manual contributes to the global rallying call to ending Gender-Based Violence within the 16 Days of Activism that culminates in today’s international human rights day global celebrations,” ICJ said in the citation.
He has also established nine regional offices across the country and several specialised internal units such as the Proceeds of Crime Recovery Unit, the Internal Compliance Unit, and the Victim and Witness Facilitation Unit, all of which have streamlined its processes and improved efficiency and effectiveness.
After completing his secondary education, Mr Haji was admitted to the University of Wales Cardiff from 1993 to 1997, where he obtained both Bachelor of Laws and Master of Laws degrees. He was admitted as an advocate of the High Court in 1999.
Mr Haji began his career in the legal profession in 1998 at Seth and Wathigo Advocates and briefly lectured at the Moi University Department of Law in 1999 before becoming a State Counsel at the Attorney General’s Office in 2000.
In December 2000, Mr Haji joined the National Intelligence Service (NIS) as a legal officer, where he helped establish the current legal department.
While at the NIS, the DPP served in various capacities including the head of legal section, 2004 to 2007, deputy head counter, Violent Extremism Department (External Division) and was promoted to head the department from 2007 to 2010.
Between 2010 to 2013, Mr Haji was the head of Stabilization of Somalia (Jubaland External Division) and was part of the team that successfully established the Jubaland Federal State of Somalia.
“Despite several storms that have emerged during his tenure, our Jurist has remained steadfast and continued to work beyond his call of duty to protect the integrity and independence of the ODPP as prescribed in the Constitution 2010 and provide quality prosecution services to all,” ICJ Kenya said.