In a case that has moved readers worldwide and that sparked a judge to comment on the rights of a dying person even during the COVID-19 pandemic, a court has ordered that a terminally ill Nigerian woman living in the UK be allowed to leave the care home where she had been staying, to spend her last days with her extended family. In her decision on the case, UK Judge Nathalie Lieven commented that the woman had ‘something between a few weeks and 3 – 6 months to live’ and that the question was whether she should be able to spend those last days with her family. ‘The ability to die with one’s family and loves ones seem to me to be one of the most fundamental parts of any right to private or family life,’ the judge wrote.
Justice Augustino Ramadhani, who died this week at the Aga Khan Hospital in Dar es Salaam, had been the Chief Justice of both Zanzibar and of the United Republic of Tanzania. He had also served as a judge on the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights from 2010 to 2016, and for the last two years of his term had been President of that court. That was not his only appointment to a regional court, however, and he had served as a judge on the East African Court of Justice from 2001 to 2007.
Among those offering tributes to Justice Augustino Ramadhani were his colleagues at the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights where he had served from 2010 to 2016, and the Chief Justice of Uganda, Bart Katureebe. Justice Katureebe said he had learnt with ‘deep sorrow’ of the death of his former colleague in Tanzania, and he conveyed the condolences of himself and of Uganda ‘for this unfortunate loss of a distinguished personality.’
A new decision from the US Supreme Court has a strong message for other courts, lawyers and everyone who works with court documents and with legislation, annotated or otherwise. The judgment restates the principle that no-one may claim copyright on decisions of the courts because the law belongs to ‘the people’ who have a right to know its content. But the judgment goes further and holds that government-commissioned annotations, like headnotes made on legislation, are also not subject to copyright. It’s an important decision for courts everywhere now that increasing numbers of lawyers and legal activists demand access to court judgments in electronic format. It’s also important because of the likely influence of the US court’s newly-articulated thinking on the copyright status of annotated legislation.
In this week’s round of an ongoing dispute over the validity of Malawi’s Covid-19 restrictions, the high court has ruled that the government’s planned regulations may still not be put into effect. The court has referred these challenges to the Chief Justice who will consider setting up a high court constitutional panel that would hear the problem and find a way forward. At its heart, the dispute is about whether the proposed restrictions have a valid legal base and/or contravene the constitution. But this week’s judgment also took on the attorney general’s office for having made no appearance in court when the matter was argued. The court called this a ‘snub’ and ‘astounding effrontery’.
Lawyers of yet another SADC country have turned to the courts for help with security force brutality against ordinary people in the community, carried out under cover of Covid-19 regulations. This time it is Lesotho Lawyers for Human Rights that is asking the high court’s constitutional panel to stop the security forces from torturing, killing and abusing people. The organisation also wants the court to order that all members of the security forces who have assaulted or tortured members of the public should be arrested and charged. The lawyers claim that ‘terror and consternation’ is sweeping through the nation, and that the judges should act urgently to stop the unlawful brutality and to protect people against further ‘inhuman and degrading treatment’.