Three From Africa

A project I’m working on has led me to three rather different websites in Africa.

The first is a blog from a law prof at the University of Western Cape. Pierre de Vos teaches constitutional law and blogs about it on constitutionally speaking, naturally enough. South Africa has a supreme Constitutional Court, created in 1994, that has the final word on matters relating to that country’s constitution. (You can see decisions from that court here, and the constitution itself, which dates from 1996, here. There’s a very helpful site that explains the South African court setup.) As all modern constitutions share a good many concerns, there are issues discussed in Professor de Vos’s blog that strike a familiar chord. It’s particularly interesting to see how South Africa is dealing with the matter of same-sex marriages, for instance.

The second site is, the home of the Kenya Law Reports. This is a very well put together resource, offering access to the country’s laws, information on the courts, access to judgments, and links to foreign resources (I’ve suggested they add CanLII to their list of Commonwealth resources.) This is in fact the model of what a single entry point for lawyers should be.

sierra_leone.jpgThe third website is that for the Special Court for Sierra Leone:

The Special Court for Sierra Leone was set up jointly by the Government of Sierra Leone and the United Nations. It is mandated to try those who bear the greatest responsibility for serious violations of international humanitarian law and Sierra Leonean law committed in the territory of Sierra Leone since 30 November 1996.

Currently, eleven persons associated with all three of the country’s former warring factions stand indicted by the Special Court. They are charged with war crimes, crimes against humanity, and other serious violations of international humanitarian law. Specifically, the charges include murder, rape, extermination, acts of terror, enslavement, looting and burning, sexual slavery, conscription of children into an armed force, and attacks on United Nations peacekeepers and humanitarian workers, among others. Indictments against two other persons were withdrawn in December 2003 due to the deaths of the accused.

The links to the current cases lead to brief descriptions of the wrongs alleged and to all of the relevant documents. Most illuminating — and most disturbing — are the video files available for each trial, which are conducted in English. The films are introduced by a voice-over and are of stellar technical quality. I hesitate to say it, but I think they should be watched so that what took place can be known.

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