Latest Articles

Tortured Ugandan wins award against intelligence operatives

A year after Human Rights Watch issued a strongly-worded report on torture and illegal detention carried out by security officers in Uganda, a court in that country has awarded substantial damages to a man who was held and tortured for 17 months by the country’s Internal Security Organisation (ISO). The court also ordered that the damages, and legal costs, be paid by the members of the ISO involved.

Judge orders damages against Namibia’s police who detained child overnight for no good reason

The conduct of Namibia’s police is under the spotlight once more, thanks to a high court case from which it emerged that they detained a group of people and held them overnight although they did not suspect them of any crime. Among those detained was a nine-year-old boy. The boy was travelling with a group of his relatives, one of whom was thought by the police to be a suspect in a housebreaking case. Police ordered that everyone in the car had to go the police station where they were held overnight. This included the child. When the boy and his father later sued the police, the court held that no attempt was made to contact the child’s family to inform them of his whereabouts. The judge also held that the child had been unlawfully detained and awarded damages to the boy as well as to his father, who had spent an anguished night not knowing what had happened to his child.

Child marriage and the law: challenges, cautions and alarming statistics from new report

Between them, Tanzania and Mozambique are estimated to have more than 10 million child brides. These and other alarming statistics emerge from a new report by Equality Now. The report examines the prevailing situation of child marriage in eastern and southern Africa, including the legal frameworks and potential gaps in legislation. Some of its conclusions are particularly important to note for judges and lawyers who may be faced with cases of intended or concluded child marriage.

Tanzania’s high court says constitution adequately protects Chief Justice

A Tanzanian court has found there is no need to seek changes to that country’s constitution which says the president may dismiss the Chief Justice. The court says this does not infringe the independence of the judiciary, and that the procedure laid down for the dismissal of judges of the appeal court would apply, since the CJ is a member of that court. The court was responding to a petition which said giving the president the power to dismiss the CJ was wrong since it undermined the principle that the three arms of state were equal and independent.

Supreme court rules on Nigerian attorney’s struggles to practice in Namibia

Imafon Fiona Akpabio is a Nigerian lawyer. Living legally in Namibia, she wants to practice there – but she’s been having problems getting her qualifications recognised. Eventually her conflict on the issue with the relevant authorities – the minister of justice and the board for legal education – landed up in Namibia’s apex court, and three judges of that court have now given their decision.

Refugees could lose host country’s protection if they visit ‘home’

The issue of refugees going ‘home’ for a visit and their asylum status then being revoked in the host country isn’t a common problem for African courts. At least not yet, judging by the absence of reported cases dealing with that question. But it’s very much a problem in some other jurisdictions as Turkish refugee to Canada, Ismail Kaya, for example, has discovered.

Protection of asylum seekers and of children facing lifelong statelessness highlighted in two significant South African decisions – case note extracts

Asylum seekers face huge obstacles trying to reach a country that can offer them refuge. One of their greatest challenges is the risk of detention on arrival because their entry to the country is unauthorised. Now a landmark judgment reinforces protection of asylum seekers and respect for their right to seek and enjoy asylum even if they are in the country unlawfully, while the state’s responsibility in cases of statelessness, another major problem for refugees, is considered in a second decision.

Judges need a working knowledge of social media to handle certain refugee cases

When would-be refugees formally apply for asylum, it is standard in some countries for the authorities to examine the applicant’s social media record. There are possible benefits – and possible dangers – in doing so, and a new working paper from the International Association of Refugee and Migration Judges highlights some of these.

‘Once a refugee, always a refugee’: Uganda’s high court disagrees with passport control officer’s views

Uganda is Africa’s most generous refugee host and more than 1.5 million refugees and asylum seekers have been registered there. But despite this open-arms approach, there seem to be problems with local officials discriminating against refugees, as the case of Abucar v Attorney General illustrates. It was a matter brought by a group of plaintiffs who say they have met the requirements for citizenship, but that a senor passport official had issued a circular that effectively cancelled their right to citizenship status, thus making them permanent refugees.

Dreadlocks may no longer prevent children from admission to Malawi’s schools – high court

It has taken years to achieve, but the children of Malawi’s Rastafarian community may no longer be barred from going to state schools because of their dreadlocks. The new decision to this effect, written by high court judge Zione Ntaba, follows years of discrimination against children who have had to choose between obtaining education, or acting in a way that is contrary to their faith by cutting their hair. The judge found that a number of the children’s constitutional rights were infringed by a government policy – whether written or not – that learners would not be allowed to attend classes wearing dreadlocks.