Latest Articles

Diplomatic immunity invoked in spat over collapsed Kampala wall

From time to time, diplomats and other representatives of foreign governments become involved in legal disputes, both criminal and civil, in their host countries. At stake in all such cases is the important question of diplomatic or sovereign immunity, a principle that generally shields foreign diplomats and governments from legal action in their host country. The latest reported African judgment in which this issue has been raised comes from Uganda where the high court had been poised to hear a dispute over a collapsed neighbour’s wall, allegedly the result of repairs carried out by the British High Commission in Kampala to its own property. Now, however, thanks to a high court decision made last week, the question has become whether the action will be heard at all, rather than whose version of events is correct and whether the British High Commission must pay damages to its neighbour.

Seychelles and human trafficking: sinister new trend emerges from appeal

Seychelles is regarded as a state that is doing relatively well on the question of combatting human trafficking. It’s on the US state department’s global assessment register as at Tier 2: not fully meeting the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, but making significant efforts to do so. These efforts include establishing the country’s first anti-trafficking hotline and establishing a trafficking-specific shelter. Two recent appeal judgments, however, give a sense of the difficulty of the work that lies ahead. Both involved a worrying new development in human trafficking: the use of local men as ‘drug guarantees’. These are people trafficked to stand as hostages to ensure that money owed to drug suppliers will be paid.

Namibia’s top court on recognising foreign same-sex marriage: what did it actually say?

In a decision with wide-reaching implications for the country’s gay and lesbian community, Namibia’s apex supreme court has held that same-sex marriages, properly concluded in countries where such unions are permitted, must be regarded as valid in Namibia. The new decision, made despite the fact that same-sex marriage is not allowed in this Southern African nation, brings to an end long-running litigation involving two couples whose relationship had been refused recognition.

Court orders more learning space for law students

Desperate law students at the University of Zambia have taken the council of the university to court: the students were distressed about the shortage of lecture halls and study space on campus due to an unprecedented number of students signed up after the government changed its policy on admissions. The court heard of students facing ‘near stampede circumstances’ in trying to attend lectures, with jostling for seats and many standing outside the lecture rooms.

‘No judgment attains perfection’: Tanzania's top court, considering major wildlife crime

Two men, found guilty of being in possession of almost two tons of elephant tusks, have just lost a third challenge in their case. The matter was brought before Tanzania’s court of appeal for a second time, with counsel urging the court, on review, to change its earlier decision on sentence. But the judges weren’t persuaded. They called the review a disguised appeal against sentence. The accused claimed the original appeal decision showed a ‘manifest error’ resulting in a miscarriage of justice. Not so, said the judges. No judgment could be perfect, but the grounds the accused raised were fundamental and would require reconsidering the entire decision, something not permitted in a review.

Unconstitutional for Uganda’s tax authority to demand banks supply sensitive information on every single client

In March 2018, the Commissioner General of the Ugandan Revenue Authority (URA) sent notices to Uganda’s banks requiring them to supply key information about every single client. The banks in turn challenged whether this move was lawful, and the country’s constitutional court has now declared that it was not.

Lesotho's CJ bemoans police impunity & its effect on rule of law

The frustration of Lesotho’s Chief Justice Sakoane Sakoane at continuing police brutality against ordinary citizens of that country is plainly evident in a new decision. Just as disturbing for him is the fact that police mostly commit these acts with impunity – seldom are they investigated and prosecuted – and the attorney general often fights against complainants if they ever bring a claim for damages, even in the face of completed medical reports that put the matter beyond doubt. The CJ found the case of Kabelo Khabanyane against the police particularly egregious since Khabanyane is an elderly man who has a visual impairment. Thus, he was highly vulnerable to police assault. In addition, their assaults against him came at dawn, after police found him sleeping.

New Kenyan judgment shows difficulties for courts when adjudicating environmental matters

A cohort of judges has been carefully trained by Jifa to deal with environmental and climate change cases. But what if those who bring petitions to court, even those who may have a genuine case, don’t present evidence that measures up? The latest decision from Kenya’s environment and land court illustrates the problem.

Magistrate wins defamation case against accused

A Namibian magistrate has been awarded damages of N$20 000 after an accused, appearing in court before her, handed up a document in which he defamed her. Among other claims, the document, hand-written by the accused, said she was paid by the family of the complainant in the criminal case before her. The magistrate then brought a defamation action in the high court. Now she has won her case and the judge who heard the matter ordered that if the man who defamed her didn’t make her a written apology, the damages award would jump to N$30 000.

Overhaul essential elements of Malawi’s adoption laws, high court urges

The Malawian judge who some years ago authorised singer Madonna’s adoption of two girls has now delivered a thorough-going critique of the legislation surrounding adoptions in that country, with strong recommendations for parliament about changes that should be made urgently, to protect the many vulnerable babies who need new homes and families through the adoption process.