In a major new decision, Kenya’s court of appeal has ruled that a claim alleging torture under a previous regime may be heard – even though it is more than 30 years since the events involved. The case concerns Michael Kibuti, a previous member of the armed forces, who was tortured and then discharged after a court martial following a failed coup in 1982. It was originally heard in the employment and labour relations court as Kibuti wants the court to recognise that various of his constitutional rights were violated by the torture meted out to him, and he also claims the terminal benefits due to him when he was discharged. However, that court dismissed the petition saying his claim was disqualified. Kibuti then turned to the appeal court for help and the judges of that court have held the matter must be properly heard by a trial court.
A prisoner, convicted of indecent assault by the Eswatini courts, has tried to sue the magistrate who presided in his case, claiming he was kept in prison five months longer than his sentence. And indeed, he was kept in prison for extra time. But this was in terms of a high court review of his original sentence. Moreover, as the high court hearing the civil case pointed out, the magistrate who ordered the additional time in prison was acting in her official capacity, and the constitution stipulates that a judicial officer is immune from claims for anything done in the exercise of the judicial power. It’s an important reminder about judicial power. But why did it require a year for the court to deliver its decision?
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In this first of a two-part blog, legal scholar Yuzuki Nagakoshi reflects on recent training at the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights. Offered jointly by the African Legal Information Institute, the Judicial Institute for Africa, based at the University of Cape Town, and by Kenya Law, the course was intended to provide a comprehensive theoretical and practical training in traditional and digital law reporting. Participants comprised legal research, registry and judicial staff of the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights and the East African Court of Justice.
Malawi’s judicial decision that the country’s ‘Tippex’ election be re-run, has survived its first crucial challenge. The original dispute, heard as a constitutional matter by the high court, concerned the validity of national polls held in May 2019. Earlier this month, five judges ordered that the elections be held again because of widespread irregularities including the blanking out of official records with correction fluid. Last week the court heard and decided an application for this judgment to be suspended, pending a challenge in the Supreme Court of Appeal. Peter Mutharika, who emerged from the now discredited elections as Malawi’s President, gave a number of reasons for why the decision should be put on hold until the apex court has re-considered the judgment. His legal team said it would waste a lot of money to prepare and perhaps even hold a second round of elections, only to find that the appeal court overturned the original decision. Refusing the application for suspension, the judges commented: ‘The view of this court is that democracy is an inherently expensive process.’