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Commonwealth Law Conference wraps up

Publish date: 15 April 2019
Issue Number: 819
Diary: IBA Legalbrief Africa
Category: Events

The 21st Commonwealth Law Conference drew to a close in the resort town of Livingstone this weekend with organisers passing the baton to the Bahamas which will host the next edition of the event in 2021. It was the fourth time in 40 years that the conference was held in Africa (Cape Town, Nairobi and Lagos were the other hosts) and organisers saluted the 600 delegates for the role they played in its success, notes Legalbrief. Throughout the week, delegates addressed various streams on corporate, commercial, constitutional and human rights along with various contemporary legal topics. Among the highlights was the release of a detailed report analysing the position of legislation and law in all of the Commonwealth jurisdictions regarding child marriage. Several speakers used their platforms to condemn the harsh new criminal law in Brunei (which includes death by stoning for homosexuality or adultery). Commonwealth secretary-general Baroness Patricia Scotland said the new laws 'will potentially bring into effect cruel and inhuman punishments which contravene international human rights law and standards'. She urged the country which has been a member of the Commonwealth since 1984, to 'reconsider' the ruling. A session on the 100th anniversary of the 1919 Amritsar massacre – which marked a decisive step towards the end of British rule in India – saw speakers also addressing the lessons learned 25 years after the Rwandan genocide and the threat of xenophobic violence in SA.

The scourge of corruption was also a key focus in several sessions with the role of multinationals in high-profile legal spats addressed. Legalbrief reports that the UK Supreme Court last week ruled that Zambian citizens can sue Vedanta Resources PLC (the parent company of Konkola Copper Mines PLC) in the UK. The claimants allege that their health and farming activities were damaged by the discharge of toxic matter from the mine into their waterways from 2005. In addition, the pros and cons of China’s economic expansion across the continent was widely analysed. This after the International Monetary Fund and World Bank last week warned that increased lending by China is growing debt burdens and onerous conditions could sow the seeds of a crisis. Newly-installed World Bank president David Malpass warned that ‘17 African countries are already at high risk of debt distress, and that number is just growing as the new contracts come in and aren't sufficiently transparent’.