Hailed as a hugely significant step in promoting and protecting human rights, Uganda’s new law looked set to be an example for other African countries. But despite the hope and the hype around the new legislation, the law has not yet taken effect. This despite presidential assent eight months ago. Now the failure to publish this important new law is being challenged in court.
This is the first in a two-part series written by Amy Sinclair and reflecting on free access to law and discussions on the subject at the seminar on freedom of expression & safety of journalists for judges in Africa held in Kampala, Uganda on 29-30 October 2019.
Mothers have been warned by a senior judge from Sierra Leone to be ‘doubly careful’ about the safety of their daughters. They should be ‘less trusting’ of others and should ‘prod on with love’ if they notice any change in their children, to find out the reason for the altered behaviour. This might help avert would-be rapists. Judge Reginald Fynn made these comments after finding a man guilty of raping a six-year-old who had been left in his care by the girl’s mother.
The South African Police Service has been taken to task by a senior judge over persistent complaints that they fail to act and enforce the law. In an astonishing claim, the police are said to refuse to intervene, even faced with clearly criminal activity, ‘until a court directs them to take action’. The judge president of the Mpumalanga division of the high court, Frans Legodi, said litigants raised similar difficulties in court every week. Photographs from the two latest matters showed police standing by but doing nothing to prevent crimes involving in protest against 'foreign truck drivers'. One of the parties in these two cases said when he asked the SAPS for help, he was told that he should ‘firstly procure a court order to enable the SAPS to come to (their) assistance.’ The JP said it was not clear whether the problem lay with the training given to the police or whether it was ‘just dereliction of duty’ by individuals. Problems experienced with police inaction were often reported in areas ‘where mining activities are very high’. He had therefore written a judgment on the behaviour of the police that would be sent to the provincial police commission to consider a proper investigation.
It has been a busy couple of months for one of the lesser-known – but critically important – courts in Arusha, Tanzania. Arusha houses a number of significant judicial bodies apart from the African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights. Among these is a United Nations tribunal: the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals, Rwanda (IR-MCT). In a momentous ongoing case, a former Rwandan minister of planning, Augustin Ngirabatware, already convicted on several genocide-related charges, asked that the IR-MCT appeal chamber consider his claim that he had acquired sensational new evidence. This evidence was that four key witnesses who testified against him had recanted and now claimed they had not told the truth during his trial. At special hearings in September and October, the IR-MCT in Arusha considered Ngirabatware’s claims and related matters. The outcome, however, did him no good at all.