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Ongwen sentenced by ICC: court’s intricate balancing task

Dominic Ongwen, a former child soldier captured by the Lord’s Resistance Army in northern Uganda and forced to join that militia, has been sentenced as an adult for the more than 60 counts of which he had been convicted by the International Criminal Court. Ongwen, found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity among others, escaped life imprisonment because of his unique personal circumstances, a reference to his childhood abduction.

Read majority judgment and dissenting on sentence

The International Criminal Court hearing the case against Dominic Ongwen, a senior officer in the Lord’s Resistance Army, had taken submissions on sentence from three different parties, each calling for a different term of imprisonment.

Malawi joins growing trend outlawing death penalty

First, Malawi’s courts found it was unconstitutional for the death penalty to be mandatory in cases where the accused was convicted of murder. Now the apex court has found, by an overwhelming majority, that the death penalty itself is unconstitutional, and has ordered that everyone on death row must be re-sentenced. One member of the court dissented, without ever commenting on the issue of the constitutionality of the death penalty, finding that the route to resolving the appeal before the nine judges could be resolved in a different way.

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The route to scrapping the death penalty came via an appeal brought to the apex court by Charles Khoviwa, convicted of murder in 2003.

Belated vindication for free speech, media, in African Commission decision

Two women journalists, released from prison in Rwanda after serving their full jail terms for writing and publishing articles that ‘endangered national security’, have been vindicated by the African Commission for Human and Peoples’ Rights. In its decision officially published last week, the commission found that Rwanda’s laws on defamation and freedom of expression violated the African Charter and should be amended. The two journalists, Agnes Uwimana-Nkusi and Saidati Mukakibibi, were charged in connection with articles published in 2010.

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Lawyers acting for Agnes Uwimana-Nkusi and Saidati Mukakibibi approached the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights in October 2012. Both women were in jail at the time, serving sentences related to stories they had written and published, critical of Rwanda’s government and some of its policies.

Newborn twins born to gay parents, in maze over Namibian citizenship

The Namibian high court has ruled that it cannot order the government to issue emergency travel documents for newborn twins to come into the country. The babies were born to a South African surrogate mother. Their fathers, married in South Africa, are a Namibian and a Mexican. The babies have birth certificates, issued by the SA authorities, indicating that the Namibian is the father of the children. However, the Namibian minister of home affairs and immigration is insisting on a DNA test before any official documents will be issued for the twins.

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From Namibia’s high court comes a story, rather like The Terminal, a movie in which a man is stuck in an airport for months, refused entry into the USA yet unable to return to his home country because of a coup there.

Faced with 'wrongful allegations' of bribery, judge recuses herself

A prominent judge of Malawi’s high court has announced her recusal from a case involving the death of a woman allegedly at the hands of her husband. Judge Fiona Mwale has recused herself from the trial following claims by the family of the dead woman that bribe money had been collected to pay the presiding officer in the matter. She said that there was no truth in the claim, but that she felt she had to quit the trial so that the bribery allegation could be investigated.

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The contentious matter of recusal has emerged again. This time it takes the form of what could well be a deliberate attempt to force a judge to stand down from a controversial matter she has been hearing.

Police rape spree: huge compensation awarded by Malawi court

Thanks to the determined efforts of the women involved, no fewer than three recent decisions in Malawi have dealt with sexual assault, harassment or rape under extremely troubling circumstances. The trio of cases will surely act as a boost to awareness of women’s constitutional rights in Malawi, to add pressure on the police to investigate and on employers to act in cases of workplace sexual harassment.

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One of these three cases concerns workplace sexual harassment at the country’s broadcasting corporation, and resulted in a tough, far-reaching decision by Malawi’s Human Rights Commission.

Judge stands down, citing 'intensity of insolence' from counsel

The search for Kenya’s new chief justice has reached a crucial point: an intensive fortnight of candidate interviews by the judicial service commission. But the battle over the future of the jurist leading the search, Kenya’s acting chief justice, Philomena Mwilu, is continuing in parallel. Most recently, the high court judge set to hear a petition that Justice Mwilu be removed as acting CJ and deputy CJ among other positions, because of graft allegations against her, has announced he will recuse himself.

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The question of when judges should recuse themselves from hearing certain cases continues to be one of the most hotly-debated judicial issues in the region. The latest decision by Patrick Otieno, a member of Kenya’s high court bench, will add fuel to these flames. The judge has recused himself from hearing a petition seeking orders barring the second most senior jurist in the country from continuing in office,

Dispute over sitting Ugandan judges appointed to head prosecution arm

Is a sitting judge allowed to take a job as head of his or her country’s prosecution services? And if a court finds that it was unconstitutional for the judge to accept the second position, what is the status of the judge’s decisions as a prosecutor? These, and difficult, related questions, have been raised in Uganda, where a series of judges have been appointed to other government jobs, without first resigning from the bench.

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Malawi's human rights commission recommends compensation for women sexually harassed by country's broadcasting boss

The women of Malawi had barely time to digest a landmark high court judgment ordering a company to pay ‘aggravated damages’ in a workplace sexual harassment matter, when a second, similar, high profile matter hit the news. This time it was a report from the Malawi Human Rights Commission which found the CEO of the country’s broadcasting corporation had sexually harassed women on the staff and recommended tough measures in response.

Landmark sexual harassment case in Malawi

The women of Malawi have been handed a legal victory that will stand them in good stead when faced with sexual harassment and assault at the workplace. It involves a woman working as a time-keeper for construction company Mota-Engil, who went to court over her experience of sexual harassment. She claimed that because her employers did nothing about her complaints, and thus allowed the situation to continue, Mota-Engil was liable to pay ‘aggravated damages’ to her.

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The woman at the centre of this case had a contract with the Mota-Engil construction company and worked as a time-keeper, maintaining accurate records of the length of time taken to complete particular sections of work. Her immediate superior was Joaquim Carvalho, a non-Malawian, Portugese-speaking man, who also worked for the company under contract as general foreman.

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