The families of nine environment and human rights activists executed by the Nigerian government in 1995, have their hopes for justice pinned on a court in the Netherlands, where a preliminary round was argued this week.
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When a number of court clerks obtained an order temporarily stopping the country’s Judicial Service Commission and the Chief Justice from recruiting and appointing a certain category of magistrate until their employment dispute was fully considered by the high court, the stage was set: some high court judge would have to consider whether Malawi’s top judge and judicial appointment authority were acting illegally. Judge Zione Ntaba drew the short straw. Faced with this difficult and sensitive question she said the JSC had to devise policy on crucial human resource issues, so that decisions on the appointments of magistrates should be clear, unambiguous and consistent.
Tanzania’s Chief Justice, Ibrahim Hamis Juma, has promulgated new rules that could greatly change how people from vulnerable groups experience courts and the justice system. That is why this is Jifa's winning Valentine's Day 2019 good news story: we like the care it shows for normally-forgotten people with no one else to champion their cause. The rules prioritise cases involving disadvantaged people, and set deadlines for finalizing matters in which they are involved. The new rules also provide that visually impaired people will get a free braille copy of any judgment or order in a case where they are involved, and that a specially assigned employee at each court will be responsible for making everyone at that court more sensitive to “vulnerability issues”.
The failure of Uganda’s Government to pass laws protecting people evicted from private and public land has come under the sharp eye of the high court. Following an application brought by a local human rights lawyer, the court has declared that failure to pass laws setting out proper procedures in the case of evictions violated the rights to life, dignity and property of those affected. Judge Musa Ssekaana ordered the government to report back within seven months on its progress towards such legislative guidelines. The court also said these guidelines should be developed via public consultation and participation and with reference to the relevant United Nations-recommended best practice. Drawing from decisions of the courts in Uganda, Nigeria, Kenya and SA as well as international law and other UN documents, the judge said it was the state’s duty not only to protect property but also to ensure that the social and economic rights of the people were given meaning.