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Judge says law on witchcraft reflects ‘western’ norms, not those of Eswatini. Supreme court disagrees

 

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The dispute over what legal approach should be adopted by courts in Eswatini arose during the murder trial of Ndumiso Shongwe. He was charged with the murder of a relative whom he believed was a witch. He held her responsible for the death of his parents, and thought she had put a fatal spell on him. As so often in such cases, the victim, gruesomely murdered because she was thought to be a witch, was an elderly woman.

In strong judgment, judge refuses 'sensitive' recusal application

A major new decision from Malawi’s high court on the vexed question of judicial recusal has laid down the law on the subject. It included strong words against the Anti-Corruption Bureau’s legal strategy – bringing a recusal application based on no arguments at all, but only a suggestion that the matter surrounding the appeal application was ‘too sensitive’ even to give reasons.

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The author of this significant decision, high court judge Kenyatta Nyirenda, was dealing with an application brought by counsel for the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), for his recusal from a corruption-related case involving Malawi’s former police boss, George Kainja.

Namibian judge calls out police, army, impunity for assaults on the public

The Namibian police – long criticised for arbitrary brutality towards members of the public – have come in for some strong rebukes in a new decision by the high court. Dealing with the damages claim of a woman who was assaulted in an incident where she merely came out of her home to see the cause of a commotion, the court has slammed an ‘intolerable’ situation involving ‘prevalent’ assaults by police and members of the defence force on members of the public in Namibia.

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The case of Jane Owoses might cause outsiders to scratch their heads because of the assault she suffered at the hands of police, for no good reason. But for those who live in Namibia, or who read the judgments of the courts there, it’s part of a long line of cases involving police who act violently towards members of the public and who are never held individually accountable, even when the case results in a damages award.

Ugandan forest dwellers still struggling for compensation, 21 years later, after being forcefully evicted from land given them by Idi Amin

The spectre of Uganda’s former president, Idi Amin, hangs over a case involving 2500 forest dwellers who are in continuing dispute over compensation for their eviction from forest land. They have been trying to get satisfaction from the courts since 2001, so far without success, even though the high court made a significant compensation award in 2019. Now the appeal court has refused the attorney general’s application to be allowed to introduce new evidence for the appeal due to be heard against the high court’s order.

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Read high court’s 2019 award judgment

 

There’s no end in sight yet for 2 500 Ugandan villagers, forced off their land in 1990 and who have been fighting a legal battle for compensation since 2001.

Former minister refused bail pending appeal after conviction, sentence, over theft of laptops destined for poor schools

A new judgment from the high court in Zimbabwe shows the country struggling with corruption, even at the highest level. But it also highlights a loophole in the law that has seen many people, once convicted and sentenced, apply for bail pending appeal, only to disappear and never hand themselves over, if they lose on appeal.

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It was ‘preposterous’ to expect that appellants, sentenced to a jail term, would prosecute their appeal with vigour and hand themselves in should the appeal be dismissed. That’s the view of Harare high court judge, Pisirayi Kwenda, who was hearing a bail application brought by Petronella Kagonye, Zimbabwe’s former minister for public service, labour and social welfare.

Congolese woman convicted and sentenced for smuggling immigrants into Namibia

A former refugee from Congo has been found guilty on three charges relating to smuggling immigrants into Namibia. Abigail Bashala, who gave the court a list of illnesses with which she is afflicted as part of her evidence in mitigation, took money from desperate people to help them get into Namibia and to travel to Canada, though the flights to Canada never materialised. The court found she was part of a syndicate that preyed on people desperate to escape from war and start a new life.

Convictions overturned after 'merciless' torture finding by Ugandan high court

Elements of the Ugandan state have been found by the high court’s anti-corruption division to have been responsible for brutal torture aimed at extracting confessions from two employees of the Uganda Revenue Authority. Judge Lawrence Gidudu, head of the country’s anti-corruption court, awarded compensation and punitive damages for the torture, but also asked some questions about the handling of the two tortured detainees that the authorities will find uncomfortable and difficult to answer.

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A new judgment from the high court of Uganda’s anti-corruption division, puts the spotlight on elements of the state using brutal torture to extract confessions.

Non-punishment principle for trafficking victims: here’s how you can help a new research project

Victims of trafficking are sometimes brought to court themselves, charged with offences they are thought to have committed, even though this may have been in the course of being trafficked. Will you help with research into this problem?

 

There’s a growing sense that punishing victims of human trafficking for offences committed in the course of being trafficked, is not an appropriate response and that vulnerable victims of trafficking should not be additionally penalised. This is known as the ‘non-punishment principle’, and it differs from traditional defences – duress, for example – because it applies specifically to people who have been trafficked.  

Activist for women’s rights called ‘violent’ because she used local word for vagina on protest placard

A women’s rights activist in Malawi, Beatrice Matweyo, found by the high court to have been wrongly arrested during an anti-gender-based violence protest, has now been slammed for having carried a placard with a slogan including the local word for vagina. Lilongwe’s high court assistant registrar said the use of this word amounted to violence against women, and thus awarded her merely a nominal amount for her claim for punitive damages.

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A new decision by the high court of Malawi should provoke outrage. Brian Sambo, assistant registrar of the high court in Lilongwe, has been assessing the damages that must be paid to prominent women’s rights activist, Beatrice Mateyo. She was arrested during a protest against gender-based violence (GBV) because police thought her placard ‘insulted the modesty of women’ as it included the local word for a vagina.

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