Judges from across the African continent have been attending the first specialist course offered by the Judicial Institute for Africa (Jifa) on environmental law. The week-long course has brought together specialists in the field and already the participating judges have been asking for a further in-depth course as they have now become aware of how many of the matters they will hear could involve issues of environmental law.
Ask any environmental law specialist who they regard as the top judicial specialist on the subject, and chances are they will all name Australian, Brian Preston. He is the chief judge of the New South Wales environmental court, and someone who has written decisions that have changed the way lawyers and civil society think about environmental litigation.
Judge Preston, one of the lead faculty on this week’s Jifa course, explained to the participants that while some of the ideas involved might initially feel unfamiliar, they were all based on long-established legal principles.
[Photo: During a panel discussion at the Jifa environmental law training week, Australian judge, Brian Preston, makes a point appreciated by the principal judge of Kenya's environment and land court, Judge Samson Odhiambo Okong'o]
Among the other participants was Judge Samson Odhiambo Okong'o, principal judge of Kenya’s environment and land court who explained the work of his court (see below for a story from that court in which a judge granted an interdict against two cabinet ministers who have allegedly been allotting land to squatters in one of Kenya’s remote national parks).
The judges also heard, with some interest – if not envy – about a progressive new law in Uganda that will allow litigation on behalf of ‘the earth’.
Jifa will report on the training course in more detail next week.