This article covers two important take-away points from this judgment:
Two men, found guilty of being in possession of almost two tons of elephant tusks, have just lost a third challenge in their case. The matter was brought before Tanzania’s court of appeal for a second time, with counsel urging the court, on review, to change its earlier decision on sentence. But the judges weren’t persuaded. They called the review a disguised appeal against sentence. The accused claimed the original appeal decision showed a ‘manifest error’ resulting in a miscarriage of justice. Not so, said the judges. No judgment could be perfect, but the grounds the accused raised were fundamental and would require reconsidering the entire decision, something not permitted in a review.
A judgment by Kenya’s apex court has found significant gaps in the law dealing with orders of foreign courts. These were discovered in the course of a judgment related to litigation being brought by seven local tea-pickers employed by a Scottish company operating in Kenya. In addition to its finding on the central issue involved, the supreme court ordered that its judgment be brought to the attention of the bodies responsible for preparing and making new legislation, with a ‘signal of the utmost urgency’ for action on developing the law to make it conform to the constitution.
A recent decision of Zimbabwe’s high court, sentencing a woman to four life sentences for the murder of her four daughters, aged between one and nine, ended what has been perhaps the most sensational trial in many years. Media reports were full of gruesome details of how the mother had killed her children, murders apparently carried out in response to the increasingly bitter relationship between the parents. But the case also put the spotlight on two other issues – first, a lack of understanding of the law on sentencing by counsel for the accused and the prosecutor, and second, the plight of a baby, born to the accused in prison.
Kenya’s highest court has delivered a decision that strongly defends the independence of the judiciary and, by extension, the independence of the mechanism by which judges are chosen, the Judicial Service Commission. It’s a watershed decision in that it will significantly change the way in which members of the JSC are appointed: the court said the president of the country had no function, not even a ceremonial one, in appointing and gazetting JSC members and that the role that the president had assumed in the past was a ‘fundamental contravention’ of the constitution.