Judging from a recent case decided by Kenyan judge Dalmas Ohungo, working in the environment and land court can be a truly soul-destroying job. Virtually two years after the court delivered a judgment against a local county government for violating the right to a clean and healthy environment of the people in its area, the local authorities have done absolutely nothing to fix the situation – and they have consistently ignored the court’s orders.
Unlike many presidents who seek extensions of a constitutionally-mandated limited term of office, the chief justice of Seychelles, Mathilda Twomey, has honoured her commitment to just one five-year term and will step down later this year. Speaking at the opening of the supreme court’s 2020 legal year, the chief justice spoke passionately about judicial independence and the courage required to exercise true independence. She also urged the establishment of a law reform commission, saying efforts to make the legal changes needed in Seychelles were hindered by ‘outdated, unreformed laws’. When Judge Twomey leaves her post as chief justice, she will remain a member of the judiciary, but will focus on her work as part of the Seychellois court of appeal.
Two HIV+ prisoners held in Lusaka's central prison, have won a case against the prison authorities that could have widespread repercussions for other prisoners and for rights-based litigation more broadly. They claimed their rights to life and dignity were infringed by conditions in the cells. In response, Zambia's highest court has ordered the government to ensure they are provided with a balanced diet and access to the medicine and treatment they need given their condition. They must also be housed in cells that are neither a health risk, nor in such a condition that they constitute inhuman and degrading treatment or additional punishment. The court has further ordered that the prison authorities must provide the courts with regular updates on what has been achieved by way of reducing overcrowding and improving conditions in the cells. Apart from its important orders related to prison conditions, the judgment is also crucial from a legal perspective: the High Court had found that though the prisoners had proved the terrible conditions under which they were housed, there was nothing the courts could do about the situation as the rights infringed were not justiciable. The Supreme Court overturned that finding, leaving the way open for other challenges on issues previously thought out of bounds for the judiciary.
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Zambian Supreme Court Judge, Mumba Malila, has been honoured for his human rights work. Earlier this week, Justice Malila was the 2019 recipient of the Zambian Human Rights Commission Award, given in recognition of his contribution to the field of human rights both in Zambia and, more broadly, across Africa.