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International lawyers’ body announces its new president: Zimbabwean Sternford Moyo

The International Bar Association has announced Zimbabwean lawyer, Sternford Moyo, as the new president of the influential organisation. Harare-based Moyo is the chairman and senior partner at Scanlen and Holderness, a firm he joined in 1982 and where his particular specialties are mining, corporate and commercial law. He is the first lawyer from Africa to head the organisation.

A former president of the Law Society of Zimbabwe, Sternford Moyo is no stranger to the IBA. He has already held several senior roles in the organisation including that of council member, member of the IBA’s management board and of the advisory board. He has also chaired the African regional forum and been co-chair of the IBA’s Human Rights Institute.

Religious freedom the winner in Zim school flag salute dispute

Attempts to establish a compulsory daily ceremony for schoolchildren to salute the national flag have come unstuck in Zimbabwe. The education authorities intended the ceremony to ‘inculcate patriotism’ and other values, according to the justification their lawyers argued before the constitutional court. But not everyone was impresssed.

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When Zimbabwe’s schoolchildren get back to their books this year, Covid permitting, they will not have to recite a government-approved pledge, intended to inculcate patriotic feelings in the young.

Legal row over Kenya's acting Chief Justice

The appointment of a new Chief Justice for Kenya is turning into the nightmare that court-watchers had predicted – and the process still has a long way to go. Former CJ David Maraga officially stood down last week, having taken his outstanding leave from mid-December 2020. He leaves behind a number of unresolved conflicts between the judiciary on the one hand and the executive and legislature on the other.

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When Kenya’s immediate past Chief Justice, David Maraga, announced he was taking leave pending his retirement in January 2021, he added that the Deputy Chief Justice, Philomena Mwilu, would take over as Acting Chief Justice from the time of his departure until someone was appointed to succeed him.

Benin taken to task by African Court for Charter failures – not even constitutional court escapes censure

Seldom does Africa’s premier regional court find that laws or practices relating to a state’s court violate rights enshrined in the African Charter. But in a new decision, delivered by the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the judges declared that Benin violated its obligation to guarantee the independence of the country’s constitutional court. The judges were equally clear that recent changes to the constitution should have involved far more consultation with the people.

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How much should you be compensated if your government made it impossible for you to stand as a candidate in elections? In one of its most recent decision, the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights decided to award XYZ, a man from Benin who was prevented from standing as an election candidate, the token amount of one franc.

Diplomatic immunity defence in Kenya's maintenance case

The tragic story of young Harry Dunn, knocked over and killed last year allegedly by the wife of a member of the US diplomatic corps in the UK, was a reminder of the conundrums that can sometimes be caused by diplomatic immunity. She left the UK after the accident and the US government has refused her return, citing immunity. Now a poignant new case is being decided in Kenya, a case that raises just as complex a conflict between rights and immunity. It concerns a senior diplomat from Sierra Leone, stationed in Kenya.

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Quite properly, given that a child is involved, the two parties in this case aren’t identified. The judgment refers to them simply as AKK – the putative father – and SMM, the mother.

'Help us', Tanzania's opposition urges African Court

Elections in Tanzania at the end of October passed with little comment from outside that country. And since the declaration of John Magufuli as president, Tanzanian politics have been relegated to a non-issue in most other parts of the world. But not for long: disputed aspects of the polls are about to be ventilated in court even though legal challenges to aspects of the election are not allowed in Tanzania’s own courts. Activists have taken their dispute over the way the elections were conducted to the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

Unsuccessful in the recent elections and unable to express its concerns over fairness and allegations of electoral malpractice in the domestic courts, Tanzania’s opposition Alliance for Change and Transparency Wazalendo have asked the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights for help.

Remembering the first woman to argue before the US Supreme Court

The first woman to argue a matter before the US Supreme Court, Belva Lockwood, was also directly responsible for ensuring that the first black lawyer was able to argue in the Supreme Court some time later. Belva Lockwood's landmark first case, Kaiser v Strickney, was argued 140 years ago this week.

 

This week marks the 140th anniversary of the day that Kaiser v Stickney was argued in the US Supreme Court. Though not a case of any great significance in itself, it is remembered as the first time that a woman lawyer was heard in that court.

Even refugees have a right to be heard on voting issues – high court

Key organisations working with Kenya’s vast refugee community want them to elect leaders based on where they live now, rather than where they came from. They say this will reduce ethnic tension and will fall in line with the general approach to elections in Kenya. To implement these changes, the country’s refugee affairs secretariat and the United Nations refugee agency have been working on new guidelines for how refugee community leaders will be chosen. But it turns out that these guidelines were not discussed beforehand with the affected communities.

‘Unprecedented levels of political interference with courts’ – Chief Justice

The leader of the judiciary in England and Wales has reacted sharply to continuing attempts by politicians to interfere with the judiciary, judicial appointments and judicial decisions. In fact, he has even suggested that politicians should be taught about the boundaries that should exist between parliament and the judiciary and that a short course could be drawn up for new members, to explain these ‘boundaries’ and why they should be observed.
 

When you read a headline like the one above it is easy to imagine that the Chief Justice expressing these concerns is from some obscure country with no understanding of judicial independence, no history of separation of powers. But in fact the Chief Justice who made these observations was the Lord Burnett of Maldon, the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, head of the judiciary of England and Wales and President of the Courts of England and Wales.

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