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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.

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The six men were tried, convicted and sentenced in the corruption and economic crimes division of the Tanzanian high court, sitting at Songea. Judge Yose Mlambina, who presided in the trial, began his 100-page judgment with an extensive review of what constituted terrorism and the legal and other difficulties involved in defining terrorism.

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.

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Two lecturers at Makerere University law school have won what they will surely regard as a significant victory for constitutionalism in the appointment of judges. Busingye Kabumba and Andrew Karamagi brought their application in reaction to an announcement by the judicial service commission (JSC), issued in May, to the effect that 16 high court judges had been appointed in an acting capacity for a two-year term.

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.

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At its latest meeting in Arusha, the African Chapter of the International Association of Refugee and Migration Judges (IARMJ) urged African states, not yet part to key conventions and protocols relating to the status of refugees and specific refugee problems in Africa, to accede to these instruments.

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.

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There was no dispute that the two under-age boys involved in this case were circumcised by Population Services International (PSI). The legal question was whether there was consent for the procedure, since their parents were neither consulted nor had the faintest idea of what was going on.

Crucial role for Africa's courts in preventing electoral violence

As judicial interest grows in the role that judges and courts should play relative to elections, the president of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights has addressed a conference of the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), Kenya on the issue. Among other questions, Justice Imani Aboud discussed the contribution that courts can make, through their work as arbiters of the law, that would help assure voters, and politicians, that elections are fair, and thus help reduce the likelihood of violence related to polls. 

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The president of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Imani Aboud, says that courts in Africa are asserting themselves, even ‘venturing into the political space’ in an effort to ensure that electoral disputes are settled quickly and fairly.

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.

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Convinced that tobacco smoking poses a far greater health hazard than the government realised, Kenyan Ibrahim Mahmoud Ibrahim brought a high court application in 2019, asking for tobacco, in all its forms, to be completely outlawed.

Judge from Botswana fights off transfer, takes CJ to court

A most extraordinary story emerged this week of an attempt by the Chief Justice of Botswana, Terrence Rannowane, to transfer a senior judge from the high court in Gaborone to Francistown, and of the judge’s response. The CJ is alleged to have justified the sudden transfer on the basis that a judge in Francistown, recently appointed to head the country’s independent electoral commission, needed to be based in Gaborone. The judge sought to be moved, Gabriel Komboni, now plans a judicial review of the CJ’s transfer decision.

Uganda's appeal court in new approach to division of marital property on divorce

Uganda’s Court of Appeal has handed down a decision that could prove a turning point on the question of how marital property should be divided on divorce. The judges seem to have rejected what some have seen as a growing tendency in divorce matters, namely granting women half share of a property. Instead, these judges say equality doesn’t automatically mean equity, and that a claim for half of the property must be backed by facts if it is to succeed.

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This new decision, by three judges of Uganda’s Court of Appeal, seems to mark a third phase in efforts to ensure that women are treated equally in society and before the law in that country, particularly at divorce.

Crucial Lesotho court decision nullifies disputed contract that could cripple the mountain kingdom

A new decision by Lesotho’s high court could prove key in a developing crisis over a disputed contract, that could bring the mountain kingdom to its knees. A full bench has found that the contract, between Lesotho and Frazer Solar, a German company that provides alternative energy systems and that would have involved Lesotho in finding funding of €100m, was null and void. Lesotho has repudiated the contract, and as a result, Frazer Solar is claiming compensation that could cripple Lesotho.

Colonial era police powers to effect indiscriminate mass arrests in Malawi declared unconstitutional

Police in Malawi, like those in other post-colonial African countries, have long enjoyed wide powers to round up, hold and threaten anyone with prosecution under the guise of crime prevention. Typically, these powers are exercised by way of mass arrests, locally known as ‘sweeping exercises’, targeting people the police regard as vagrants or who seem out of place. Though first enacted under colonial rule, these powers have remained on the statute books even after independence.

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In a newly-delivered decision, Judge Zione Ntaba has held that the law giving Malawian police power to conduct indiscriminate raids on the public – known locally as ‘sweeping exercises’ – is unconstitutional.

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