A PROMINENT senior lawyer in Kenya, Professor Tom Odhiambo Ojienda, has persuaded the high court in Nairobi to order that the country’s tax bosses give him a current tax compliance certificate, despite their earlier refusal to do so. The revenue authorities say the lawyer owes them a lot of money and so they won’t issue the certificate. But Ojienda told the judge he needed the certificate so that he could contest a seat he wants to keep – on Kenya’s Judicial Service Commission, the body that helps select the country’s judges. Though he won the interim order, the revenue authorities have noted an appeal.
The appropriateness of the death penalty as a punishment for even extremely violent murder has been raised at the Supreme Court in Kampala. Members of Uganda’s apex court were considering the case of a 63-year-old woman who murdered and dismembered her husband. Though she was originally condemned to death, the five Supreme Court justices have replaced that sentence with a 30-year jail term. The case illustrates the close attention a trial court needs to pay to the balance between mitigating and aggravating circumstances to get the sentence right, as per the sentencing guidelines. It also illustrates that Uganda's apex court is reluctant to approve the death penalty.
A major case on the environmental and human rights of villagers in Zambia was heard in the English courts over two days this week. The appeal concerns the question of where villagers, suing over the pollution of their water via mining action, may bring their dispute. They want the case heard in the UK while Vedanta, the parent company they are targeting, says the “natural forum” for the matter would be Zambia. If the English Supreme Court gives the go-ahead for the case to be heard in the UK, it will have a major impact on many other environmental cases and be a significant step in the development of environmental law, making it easier to hold international parent companies responsible for the actions of their subsidiaries.
After a cattle-rustling raid into Zambia by uniformed Angolan soldiers armed with assault rifles, a local man has been convicted and sentenced to death. It is an unusual case for several reasons: armed border raids seldom result in a conviction, for example. But it is also significant because it shows the Supreme Court, Zambia's highest legal forum, taking more than four years to deliver judgment. Given that the case did not appear to involve particularly complex legal issues, questions have to be asked about why the judges took so long - especially in a case that concerns the death penalty - and why they felt no need to explain the delay.
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