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Pocket Law: Legal Information In Your Pocket

Do your users struggle to connect to the Internet? Pocket Law lets you search for cases and legislation off-line. It is a USB stick loaded with an LII website, which works off-line and updates with new content once users are in Internet coverage.

Claiming potential conflict, Malawi Law Society wants its members barred from joining specialist law bodies

Malawi’s legal community is braced for a major court battle between the Malawi Law Society (MLS) – it bills itself as ‘the voice of the legal profession in Malawi’ – and two other professional legal bodies, the Corporate Lawyers Association (CLA) and the Commercial Bar Association (CBA). This follows an attempt by the MLS to have the court prevent MLS members from joining the ‘objects and business’ of the CLA and the CBA. The proposed ban, which would stop all Malawi’s registered lawyers from joining the two specialist legal bodies, must now be fully ventilated in court as a constitutional issue since it could affect the constitutionally guaranteed right to freedom of association.

Court says accused in double witchcraft murder a ‘suitable candidate’ for death penalty, imposes lesser sentence because of sincere beliefs

The high court in Zimbabwe has been grappling with the question of how to deal with witchcraft-related murder, and the role that such beliefs should play in a trial. It’s an on-going issue for courts in a number of African countries, and in this case, the presiding judge, Lucy Mungwari, looked at a variety of approaches by other courts. The case she was considering was particularly horrific, as the accused murdered his own father and his aunt, both of whom were well over 80 years old.

Tough sentences follow terrorism convictions by Tanzanian court

Six men, including three from the same family, have been convicted of terrorism by the high court in Tanzania and sentenced to a total of 50 years each. The prosecution said the six were members of a larger group that had met in the Tunduru district, as part of a conspiracy to start a religious war linked to Al-Shabaab. They planned to convince young people to join in the overthrow of the government and establish an Islamic state. The presiding judge, Yose Mlambina, heard argument that the offence was a transnational matter, with potential to harm Tanzania and its neighbours. Passing sentence, he said terrorism was ‘a complex national and international plague.’ For Tanzania, troubled by continuing terrorism linked to Al-Shabaab, this new decision is a significant moment in efforts to halt the training of young people for terrorist activity.

Free speech gets a huge boost in Uganda

A key freedom of expression law, used in Uganda to arrest, detain and hamper the work of journalists, along with other writers and political activists, has been declared unconstitutional by that country’s constitutional court. Five judges held that the law, dealing with ‘computer misuse’, imposed curbs that were incompatible with the constitution. The court said that prosecuting people for the content of their communication amounted to a violation of what ‘falls within guarantees of freedom of expression in a democratic society’.

New journal on democracy, governance and human rights for Zimbabwe

A new, scholarly journal focused on democracy, governance and human rights in Zimbabwe, has just published its first edition online. Coordinator of the journal, Musa Kika, says the journal is partly a response to Zimbabwe’s lack of scholarly publications dealing with legal and other issues, and that this is a lack that the judiciary itself has commented on. The first edition, featuring five articles focused on elections, election practices and disputes, is particularly timely given that a general election is expected to be held in Zimbabwe by mid-year.

Circumcised without their parents’ consent: now two young boys win judgment for damages

Two young boys, circumcised without their parents’ knowledge or consent, and who later developed complications, have won their high court action against Population Services International (PSI) Malawi, and will now be entitled to damages. The two boys claimed for assault and battery as well as pain and suffering, and they want damages for ‘deformity’ and violation of their right to personal security as well as bodily integrity. The judge of the Malawi high court who heard the matter, Dingiswayo Madise, said that PSI had abused the legal process and should be ‘ashamed’ that it defended the case, rather than settling the matter out of court.

Judges applaud African states’ efforts in hosting refugees, suggest much work remains to be done

At a recent meeting in Arusha, Tanzania, the Africa Chapter of the International Association of Refugee and Migration Judges (IARMJ) applauded the solidarity and efforts of many African states in hosting refugees. Their work in finding collective solutions for the situation of refugees, sometimes under the auspices of the African Union, was also appreciated. The judges have now issued a formal declaration, covering a wide range of issues related to refugees, asylum-seekers and stateless people.

Uganda’s constitutional court finds 16 high court two-year, acting appointments unconstitutional

When Uganda’s judicial service commission (JSC) announced earlier this year, that 16 high court judges had been appointed – for a two-year acting stint – it prompted two legal academics to bring a petition challenging the constitutionality of these appointments. Now the country’s constitutional court has given its decision: by four to one, the court ruled that the appointments were unconstitutional, and gave the JSC six months to rectify the situation.

Health activist loses court battle for complete tobacco ban in Kenya

A spirited fight for tobacco to be completely banned on tobacco in Kenya has gone up in smoke: the constitutional and human rights division of the high court has refused a petition brought to overturn the existing laws controlling the production and sale of tobacco in Kenya. Instead, the unsuccessful litigant wanted tobacco to be outlawed completely to safeguard the health of that country’s people. Ibrahim Mahmoud Ibrahim, who brought the application, argued that tobacco actively contributed to lowering the standard of health of Kenyans, since it killed up to half of its users and was the world’s single biggest cause of preventable death.