Constitutionalism and Human Rights

This channel aggregates information on constitutionalism, constitution-making, constitutional reform, human rights and democracy issues in Africa. We curate and feature legal developments, caselaw and legislation, scholarly commentary, blogs, and columns.

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Carmel Rickard

Legal Columnist.
Editor in Chief of the Newsletter of the Judicial Institute for Africa at UCT

Since she began working as a journalist in 1981, Carmel Rickard has specialised in writing about legal affairs. She has won widespread recognition (local and international) as well as a number of awards for her work, and in 1992/3 was awarded a Nieman Fellowship to Harvard.

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‘War against women’ with rise in gender-based torture

A judge in Zimbabwe has slammed fatal domestic violence against women as 'gender-based torture'. Sentencing a man who savagely murdered his partner the judge, Amy Tsanga, said women were 'clobbered, booted, strangled, stabbed or slashed to death' by their partners. Such attacks so often happened in their own bedrooms that these spaces had become 'a deadly environment' for women.

This article is re-published with permission from LegalBrief: Your Legal News Hub by Juta&Co.

 

War is being waged in the southern African region: against women. That’s the conclusion you could come to from regularly reading court decisions in this part of the continent.

African Court Delivers a Landmark Decision on Statelessness

IN what is being hailed as a “monumental” decision for the continent, the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights has ruled that Tanzania arbitrarily deprived a man of his Tanzanian nationality. The judgment, likely to affect many “stateless” people in Africa, stipulates that a decision to strip someone of nationality may only be taken after a fair judicial process, and that arbitrary deprivation is in breach of the University Declaration of Human Rights.

WHEN Anudo Anudo went to his local police station to sort out all the papers he needed to get married, he could not have guessed that he was about to have his nationality taken away, be made stateless – and then become the unlikely hero of a landmark decision by the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

PEN Report: Criminal Defamation is Used to Stifle Dissent in Africa

JUDICIAL independence and media freedom are usually linked. In countries where judges feel unacceptable levels of government pressure it is probable that journalists will be experiencing the same thing.

As far as journalists are concerned, criminal defamation is a serious problem hampering the media and undermining the watchdog role of journalists in many African countries. Typically, criminal defamation is used by political and business leaders in particular, to prevent journalists from investigating and writing about personal corruption, corruption in government departments or corruption in business.

African Judges Presiding over African Presidents

WHEN SA high court judge Themba Sishi entered the historic court room in the east coast city of Durban to preside in the corruption case of former president Jacob Zuma, he became one of a select few judges required to try an African president.

Zuma is now to have his day in court, after years of legal action to prevent that day from ever arriving. The charges relate to a multi-billion US dollar arms deal struck by SA and from which he is alleged to have profited corruptly via bribes paid to him by Schabir Shaik, a businessman already convicted and sentenced for bribery.

Ugandan Judge Sues Attorney-General

IN the struggle to ensure judicial independence judges sometimes have to take extraordinary steps. Over the last six months however none can have been more unusual than the litigation by Ugandan high court judge Joseph Murangira, which saw the judge suing Uganda’s attorney-general.

The case, heard in the country’s constitutional court, came out of a settlement order finalized by the judge. One of the parties to that dispute was a government department, and when the agreed amount was due to be paid, the Public Accounts Committee of parliament ordered the judge to appear before it and justify his decision. When he refused to do so the parliamentary committee made a report against him that was adopted by parliament, “purporting to veto” his decision in the high court.

Judge faces impeachment over drunken misconduct - 11 years later

WHEN SA TV viewers saw the video footage they could hardly believe their eyes: high court judge Nkola Motata had driven his Jaguar into the wall of a private resident in Johannesburg. Not just that. He was obviously drunk and disorderly, swearing at those who arrived to deal with the situation and resisting arrest. That was in January 2007. Since then the judge has been on suspension, with full pay.

‘Cautionary rule’ victory for sexual assault victims

A dissenting judgment discusses the law on corroboration’ in sexual assault cases in Uganda.  The result is a landmark ruling for girls and women considering whether to lay charges against their attackers in cases of sexual assault. And it’s also crucial in the development of a jurisprudence that no longer discriminates against women. None of her colleagues objected to her separate judgment: clearly, they found it legally sound.

First published by Legalbrief 06 March 2018 and reused with permission.

FOREIGN JUDGES ON LESOTHO BENCH SLAM POLITICAL INTERFERENCE IN JUDICIAL APPOINTMENTS

AN EXTRAORDINARY new high court judgment from Lesotho highlights a serious problem in that country’s judicial and executive arms: every one of the last four permanent appointments to head Lesotho’s highest court has ended in scandal, with political interference playing a major role.

Of the last four permanent presidents of the court of appeal, one was appointed twice, two were the subject of impeachment tribunals and one was “summarily removed from office” in an unlawful bid to install the favourite of a new prime minister.

The latest judgment concerns senior legal academic Kananelo Mosito. He was the first jurist to be permanently appointed as president of Lesotho’s court of appeal after the resignation of the disgraced former head of that court, Michael Ramodibedi, who handed in his resignation just as his impeachment tribunal was due to start.

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