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Desperate Afghan judges ask UK high court for review of government’s refusal to allow them entry

The alarming case of two Afghan judges, refused entry into the UK after the Taliban took over Afghanistan, is instructive. The two face the very real possibility that they will be found and executed by the Taliban, and yet the UK government has flatly refused to allow them in. Among other things, this illustrates how vulnerable judges, as a group, sometimes are, persecuted precisely for the work that they do as judges. When they seek asylum, it is difficult to say that they are simply ‘making things up’, an accusation often levelled at other would-be refugees.

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Two Afghan judges, both in hiding and known only as ‘S’ and ‘AZ’, have successfully asked the high court to reconsider a UK government decision refusing to allow them to relocate to the UK.

What about the children?

This year, World Refugee Day focuses particularly on the right of displaced people to be safe. But what does that mean for children? Laura Buffoni, senior community-based protection officer of the UNHCR’s regional bureau for Southern Africa, sat down for an interview with Justice in Africa to share some ideas and information with readers, starting with this statistic: globally, as well as in this region, women and children make up some 80% of the displaced population.

Laura Buffoni, senior community-based protection officer of the UNHCR’s regional bureau for Southern Africa:

This is an issue I’m passionate about. In my job as community-based protection officer I advise colleagues about child protection and gender equality and gender-based violence, among other subjects.

When we consider ‘safety’, the theme of this year’s World Refugee Day, we need to translate that term and think what is means for a child.

Don’t trade people fleeing war ‘like commodities’ – UNHCR

The UN High Commission for Refugees has issued a strongly-worded statement condemning attempts by the UK government to fly asylum-seekers to Rwanda. And while the UK courts have rejected attempts to halt the flights, the European Court of Human Rights has unexpectedly intervened to halt the first scheduled removal of asylum-seekers at least until July. The result has been to raise the international profile of the dangers and difficulties involved in asylum-seeking.

As UK government attempts to deport a first group of asylum seekers to Rwanda clash with local efforts to have the courts approve legal objections to the scheme, the UN’s refugee agency has spoken out strongly against the UK’s plan.

The UK should not be trying to ‘shift asylum responsibilities’ and ‘evade international obligations’, the UNHCR’s assistant high commissioner for protection, Gilliam Triggs has said.

Asylum-seekers should be dealt with under refugee law, says Kenyan court – not under immigration legislation

The Kenyan courts regularly hear cases related to people claiming to be asylum-seekers. The latest, decided three months ago, led to a judgment pointing out that the men at the heart of the matter, flagged for deportation, had the right to access Kenya’s elaborate new system designed to inquire into the validity of someone’s claim for refugee status. The two men were convicted of being illegally in Kenya and were to have been deported once they had served their term of imprisonment.

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The problems experienced by Espoir Ndaruhuya and Fredy Ndakenesha, both from the Democratic Republic of Congo, are not unusual. They came to Kenya from the DRC, and told the trial court they entered the country intent on seeking refugee status. They were arrested, however, charged, tried and convicted – but under the law related to immigration, rather than the law that applies to refugees.

Jifa in talks for proposed new African association of judicial training organisations

Jifa (the Judicial Institute for Africa) has for some time been aware of the need to establish an African association of judicial training organisations, and co-hosted a three-day meeting in Dakar, Senegal, earlier this month to investigate the possibility. A group of anglophone and francophone training institute directors and representatives attended. Jifa director, Vanja Karth, said afterwards that the meeting, sponsored by the German development agency, GIZ, had been a great success and led to the group (pictured) formulating the ‘Dakar Declaration’.

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The declaration, signed at the end of the meeting, notes that the rule of law and democracy require the establishment of an effective and credible judiciary and that the efficiency and credibility of the judiciary depended on the training of competent judicial officers.

Zambian high court scraps lawyer from the roll of practitioners for dishonesty

A Zambian legal practitioner who failed to pay over money from his client intended to settle a bank loan, has been disciplined by the Law Association of Zambia (LAZ) and has now been struck off the roll of practitioners by the high court. This was despite the disgraced lawyer’s claim that his client had settled matters amicably and that there was now no dispute between them. The court held that this did not matter: the court and the LAZ were obliged to investigate the lawyer’s behaviour regardless of whether the original complaint was withdrawn or not.

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It’s not often that courts are called upon to decide whether to remove a lawyer from the roll of practitioners. When it does happen, it’s such a public event, and with such potentially disastrous results, that you can be sure the lawyer concerned will put up a fight.

Malawi high court judge on anti-graft unit’s powers

In a major new decision, the high court in Malawi has clarified a number of issues critical to the country’s criminal justice system. The decision comes in the wake of attempts by a former cabinet minister, Kezzie Msukwa, dismissed because of corruption charges against him, to challenge the basis on which investigations into his alleged wrong-doing were carried out.

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The arrest of Malawi’s former minister for lands, Kezzie Msukwa, on corruption charges at the end of December 2021, could hardly have been more dramatic: He was stopped and arrested outside the hospital where he had gone for treatment for hypertension and blood pressure that was ‘out of control’. The arresting officers then handcuffed him

Court chides counsel for ‘scurrilous allegation’ against newly-appointed judge

Counsel for a former presidential adviser on strategy, charged under Malawi’s anti-corruption laws, has come in for a tongue-lashing over the argument he put up in a judicial review application. During the course of the corruption trial so far, the presiding magistrate, Patrick Chirwa (pictured), was appointed as a judge of the high court. Counsel for Chris Banda, the accused, wanted a different magistrate to take over the corruption trial, but the magistrate, now a judge, said he would continue hearing the matter to completion.

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When Lilongwe chief resident magistrate Patrick Chirwa was appointed to the high court bench, he could never have imagined the stir he was about to make in legal circles because of his decision to finish hearing an important matter in the magistrate’s court.

Top court delivers major victory for Zimbabwe’s children

 A new decision by Zimbabwe’s constitutional court (a separate chamber of the supreme court), has found sections of the criminal law unconstitutional because it completely fails to protect children aged 16 – 18 from sexual exploitation. The judgment also found sections that permit child marriage, involving children under 18, unconstitutional. The new judgment contains a harsh critique of an earlier high court decision that found the criminal law was valid, even though it did not conform to the constitution.

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Zimbabwe’s constitutional court has found that a law permitting sexual activity from age 16 is unconstitutional. This is because the constitution insists that only those over 18 should be considered adult.

Amnesty International death penalty report: a time for judges to reflect

In prisons across Africa, many thousands of prisoners sit on death row, uncertain whether they will be allowed to live. But as the numbers of condemned prisoners climb, with an estimated 5 843 awaiting execution in prisons all over Africa, debate over the death penalty is also growing. The newest report from Amnesty International, released this week, shows some stark contrasts.

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The publication of Amnesty International’s annual report seems a moment to reflect on the deadly seriousness of a judicial officer’s task.

As always, this year’s report contains sobering statistics on the numbers of people around the world awaiting execution or who have already suffered the death penalty.

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