The International Bar Association has announced Zimbabwean lawyer, Sternford Moyo, as the new president of the influential organisation. Harare-based Moyo is the chairman and senior partner at Scanlen and Holderness, a firm he joined in 1982 and where his particular specialties are mining, corporate and commercial law. He is the first lawyer from Africa to head the organisation.
Attempts to establish a compulsory daily ceremony for schoolchildren to salute the national flag have come unstuck in Zimbabwe. The education authorities intended the ceremony to ‘inculcate patriotism’ and other values, according to the justification their lawyers argued before the constitutional court. But not everyone was impresssed. One parent went to court with a claim that the ceremony was not constitutionally acceptable and saying that his right, and the right of his children, to freedom of religion was infringed by the compulsory requirement of flag-saluting. He argued that the ceremony, which included words directed at ‘Almighty God’, infringed the religious freedom of others as well. Nine judges including the Chief Justice sat as a constitutional court to hear the matter. They have agreed with the father, finding the ceremony unconstitutional because it was made compulsory, and because there was no provision for those who found it in conflict with their religious beliefs. The judges were, however, less forthcoming about why it took nearly four years for them to finalise and deliver the judgment.
The appointment of a new Chief Justice for Kenya is turning into the nightmare that court-watchers had predicted – and the process still has a long way to go. Former CJ David Maraga officially stood down last week, having taken his outstanding leave from mid-December 2020. He leaves behind a number of unresolved conflicts between the judiciary on the one hand and the executive and legislature on the other. For example, President Uhuru Kenyatta still refuses the appointment of more than 40 judges selected by the Judicial Service Commission – apparently part of his retribution for the court holding in September 2017 that elections in the previous month were invalid. The latest problem, however, concerns the Deputy Chief Justice, Philomena Mwilu, set to take over as Acting Chief Justice pending the new appointment. However, a legal activist has been making determined efforts to stop her from taking the acting appointment, saying that she is not constitutionally entitled to such a post, and that corruption charges pending against her also disqualify her from serving as ACJ. Now the high court’s constitutional and human rights division has refused to consider this controversial petition. But it has set new deadlines for amendments to be made to the original petition after which the matter could return to court.
Seldom does Africa’s premier regional court find that laws or practices relating to a state’s court violate rights enshrined in the African Charter. But in a new decision, delivered by the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the judges declared that Benin violated its obligation to guarantee the independence of the country’s constitutional court. The judges were equally clear that recent changes to the constitution should have involved far more consultation with the people. Among other decisions they declared that the state of Benin had violated the Charter right to information, as well as the right to economic, social and cultural development.
The tragic story of young Harry Dunn, knocked over and killed last year allegedly by the wife of a member of the US diplomatic corps in the UK, was a reminder of the conundrums that can sometimes be caused by diplomatic immunity. She left the UK after the accident and the US government has refused her return, citing immunity. Now a poignant new case is being decided in Kenya, a case that raises just as complex a conflict between rights and immunity. It concerns a senior diplomat from Sierra Leone, stationed in Kenya. A woman, claiming to be a former girlfriend of his, has gone to court asking that he be ordered to pay maintenance for a child born of their relationship. But despite the court’s order he has refused to do so, citing the Vienna Convention to justify his inaction. As the case winds its way through many hearings, the sum he owes in maintenance is mounting steeply. And the high court is unimpressed.