On 12 October 2012, the Botswana High Court struck down a customary law rule which denied women the right to inherit the family home. This is the first decision of its kind in Botswana. Read our summary of the judgment below. You can find the full judgment here. Read the rest of this entry »

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In September 2011, two months after the devastating anti-government protests in Malawi which left 19 people dead and in the midst of a violent and coordinated crackdown on political critics, a young student activist, Robert Chasowa was found dead on his university campus. Police ruled the death a suicide, but his family, friends and fellow activists believed that the injuries Chasowa suffered were inconsistent with a suicide and instead pointed to murder – one which they believed was politically motivated. However the political climate under former President Bingu wa Mutharika which imposed a veil of secrecy and oppression of dissent meant there was little chance of the truth emerging and those responsible being brought to justice.   

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While civil society is still reeling from SADC’s recent decision to strip southern Africa’s regional court, the SADC Tribunal, of the ability to serve the interests of the region’s citizens, the Supreme Court of Appeal, seemingly unperturbed by recent events, confirmed that judgments of the now-defunct Tribunal are enforceable in South Africa. The SCA confirmed that property belonging to the Zimbabwean government may be attached and sold in execution of a cost order handed down by the SADC Tribunal.

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On Monday and Tuesday, the Lesotho Constitutional Court will hear arguments in Masupha v Senior Resident Magistrate for the Subordinate Court of Berea and Others, a case challenging legislation providing only for male succession to chieftainship. As followers of the case will remember, the case was postponed earlier this year and the Constitutional Court consolidated two matters: the first one, a case filed in the Lesotho Magistrate Court between the son of Principal Chief Masupha and his second wife, and Principal Chief Masupha’s younger brother; and the second case, a constitutional challenge filed by Senate Masupha, the first-born daughter and only child of Principal Chief Masupha and his first wife. Both cases will be heard on Monday and Tuesday and arguments will begin at 9:30am.

You can follow live updates from the arguments on SALC’s twitter feed (@Follow_SALC).

For further background on the case, click here.

La CIJ, SADC LA et SALC exprime leur très profonde déception au regard de la décision prise par le Sommet des Chefs d’Etats et de Gouvernements de la SADC sur le Tribunal de la SADC.

Le Communiqué Final du Sommet relève que les Présidents de la sous-région ont “décidé qu’un nouveau protocole sur le Tribunal soit négocié et que la compétence de ce dernier soit confinée à l’interprétation du Traité de la SADC et aux Protocoles prévoyant le règlement des disputes entre Etats-membres. Cette décision torpille sérieusement un organe à part entière de la SADC – le Tribunal actuellement établi – et prive le peuple de la SADC du droit d’accéder au Tribunal pour obtenir justice.

C’est, comme le fait observer l’Archevêque émérite Desmond Tutu, “une tragédie. C’est un coup portée contre la gouvernance responsable et les droits individuels.”

En particulier, la décision représente: Read the rest of this entry »

Check out SALC’s blog post at the Open Society Foundation‘s blog on the recent judgment in the Namibian coerced sterilisation case.

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Every year SALC provides an opportunity for law students to intern at the organisation. If you are interested in interning at SALC, we would love to hear from you. To learn more about our internship programme click here.

This year SALC was joined by Melissa Chastang, Katie Flannery and Sandeep Prasanna. Here’s what they had to say about their time at SALC.

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When we talk about scales being removed — as in scales falling from our eyes, so that we might see more clearly — we’re generally referring to a positive development. But in the context of justice, the removal of scales — justice’s balancing emblem — is a very bad development indeed. And yet that’s exactly what is likely happen with the SADC Tribunal.

The SADC Summit of Heads of State and Government meets in Maputo, Mozambique from 17-18 August 2012. That meeting will decide the fate of the Tribunal. No tribunal currently exists — it has been suspended now for close on two years. The legality of that suspension is itself in question. A meeting of SADC Ministers of Justice and Attorneys General who were tasked by the Summit with reviewing the Tribunal and proposing amendments to its protocol, has proposed that a future Tribunal not have any human rights jurisdiction until such time as a separate protocol on this issue is concluded. That recommendation flows from a similar provision contained in the constitutive instrument for the East African Court of Justice. Unsurprisingly, more than thirteen years after inclusion of that provision East African states have yet to conclude a separate human rights protocol. And there is no reason, certainly given that the SADC Tribunal’s suspension followed close on it declaring its inherent human rights jurisdiction, that Southern African states would do any differently.

This makes the meeting, currently taking place in Maputo, of Southern African civil society groups and titled “The SADC We Want” so critical. The meeting is hosted by the SADC Council of Non-Governmental Organizations (SADC CNGO); the Southern Africa Trade Union Co-ordination Council (SATUCC) and the Fellowship of Christian Councils in Southern Africa (FOCCISA) and will allow engagement by civil societywith SADC Elders, like former President Chissano of Mozambique, SADC officials such as Executive Secretary Dr Salamao and SADC Parliamentarians. It will be an opportunity for civil society to press for a Tribunal that has inherent human rights juridiction.

Anything less and the Tribunal will be a pale shadow of its former self. It will make a mockery of the concept of justice. SADC leaders will offer their citizens a figure which looks like justice but without its essential machinary — the scales to weigh justice. And they will hope we will be fooled. . .

SALC’s work on cervical cancer benefitted from our attendance at the 6th Stop Cervical Cancer in Africa Conference (SCCA) which ended in Zambia on Tuesday the 24th of July 2012. The objective of the conference was to encourage participants to mobilise their governments to increase and secure funding for cervical cancer prevention.

The three day conference which focused on the theme “A New Era in Cervical Cancer Prevention” attracted over 1,000 participants from 25 countries, including Congo-Brazzaville, Belgium, Botswana, Egypt, Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania and Zambia. Among those who attended were the First Lady of Mozambique  Dr. Maria da Luz Guebuza,  First Lady of  Swaziland  Queen Nomsa LaMatsebula while the Congo Brazzaville, Gambia, Ghana, Namibia, South Africa, Uganda and Zimbabwe sent representatives to the conference. Other attendees included researchers, health professionals, policy makers, cancer advocates and representatives from non-governmental organisations. Read the rest of this entry »

The Public Interest Law Gathering held at Wits University from 11-13 July 2012 was a collaborative event, hosted by a number of highly respected and committed human rights organisations.  SALC was one of the host organisations and also presented two panels: one on ‘Litigating Against Loitering Laws: protecting the rights of marginalised populations’ and another on South Africa’s international criminal law obligations. The international criminal law presentation discussed potential prosecutions of international crimes both in South Africa and abroad. This was particularly topical, coming soon after the North Gauteng High Court declared that South African officials were obliged to investigate certain allegations of crimes against humanity in Zimbabwe. The key question was what the implications of legal action in countries other than where the crimes were committed – an ‘exporting’ of jurisdiction – were for South Africa. Read the rest of this entry »