David meets the Queen

Professor David McQuoid-Mason, Chair of Street Law SA, recently met the Queen at a Reception for Heads of Commonwealth Organisations at St. James Palace, London on 27 October 2015, prior to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Malta. The function was held by the Queen to thank the Commonwealth organisations for supporting her and the Commonwealth.

For the occasion McQuoid-Mason wore what he calls his ‘Mandela jacket’ designed by Lindiwe Khuzwayo of Durban, which was in colourful contrast to the dark suits worn by the other male participants and attracted the eye of the Queen.

Queen's Reception Electronic Image 151027_CRCHOGMR_SID_1263

The beloved Ed O’Brien

ed1Edward Lee O’Brien, 69, co-founder of Street Law, Inc., President of the ACLU for the National Capital Area, and a pioneer of law-related education, died on Thursday, July 2, 2015, of a heart attack in New York City. Serving as Executive Director of Street Law Inc., for almost four decades, Ed brought Street Law’s democracy, human rights and legal education programs to high school classrooms, prisons, courts, police departments and communities worldwide – using innovative inter-active teaching methodologies – the original focus was to teach kids in underserved areas about “everyday law.”

Ed’s vision took Street Law international in 1985, first to South Africa, establishing an enduring partnership with his lifelong friend, David McQuoid-Mason, the dean of the University of Natal Law School. Afterwards, he led programs in Latin America, East and West Africa, Eastern Europe, Russia and the Middle East. Although his first love was teaching, Ed spent much of his time fundraising and managing grants, and, as a result, under Ed’s leadership, Street Law has sought and secured grants from the U.S. Department of Education, U.S. Department of State, USAID, the U.S. Department of Justice, the National Endowment for Democracy, the Ford Foundation, the Open Society Institute and some of the major corporations in America including General Motors, Coca Cola and McDonalds, etc.

Ed graduated from the University of Virginia with a B.A. in History and received his J.D. degree from Georgetown University Law Center. He co-founded the Street Law program at Georgetown in 1972 and was awarded a Robert F. Kennedy fellowship, from the RFK Center for Justice & Human Rights, which helped launch the organization, by subsidizing his first year of paid Street Law employment.

Ed worked as an adjunct professor of law at Georgetown University, teaching courses in Prison Law and Street Law. He co-founded Human Rights USA, a project initially funded by the Ford Foundation, in 1998.   He also founded the Black South African Law Program at the Georgetown University Law Center, where over four dozen South African lawyers were invited to earn their Masters of Law degrees; remarkably, the graduates of this program have become some of the country’s leading law professors, judges and practicing lawyers.  He had hoped to write about the legacy of this program during an expected visit to South Africa in the spring of 2016.

Ed has had special relationship with South Africa, where Street Law’s first international program was established in 1985, and in 2003 the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban awarded him an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree. According to David McQuoid Mason, the then Dean of University of Natal Law School, Ed “arrived on the day the Apartheid authorities declared a State of Emergency. We ran the very first Street Law workshop in South Africa in Durban in August 1985, and started the first university Street Law program in South Africa at the then University of Natal (now the University of KwaZulu-Natal) in 1986. We then both helped to spread the Street Law message around the world, beginning with 16 Eastern European with funding from the Ford Foundation and Open Society (Soros) Foundation. The rest is now history and Street Law is taught in over 45 countries today. Ed was a great inspiration for many people – not least me.”

In 2006, Ed completed a two-year Master’s program in International Children’s Rights at the University of Fribourg (Switzerland) Faculty of Law. In 2009, he received the Isadore Starr Award for Excellence in Law-Related Education from the American Bar Association.

Ed has written articles for numerous professional journals and is a recognized expert in the areas of law related education, youth aspects of the criminal justice system, constitutional law, human rights, and democracy. He has authored and co-authored several books, including the premiere textbook for teaching law to high school students, Street Law: A Course in Practical Law (now in its eighth edition) written with the enthusiastic encouragement early on by Isadore Starr, Street Law (South African edition), Human Rights for All (1991), Democracy for All: Education Towards a Democratic Culture (1994), and Practical Law for Correctional Personnel: A Resource Manual and a Training Curriculum.

In 2004, a partnership with the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy headed by Dr. Radwan Masmoudi and Aly R. Abuzaakuk, with funding from the U.S. State Department’s Democracy and Rule of Law (DRL) program, created an adaptation of the Democracy for All text, which uses excerpts from the Koran, to show how Islam and democracy are compatible. This book, Islam and Democracy: Toward Effective Citizenship (2005), published in Arabic, has been used successfully in a number of countries including Morocco, Tunisia, Jordan, and Egypt.

In 2007, as part of Street Law’s Closing the Gap program, Ed served as a living civil rights “Legend” in a unique program called “Breakfast with a Legend,” where 5th and 6th graders in D.C. Public Schools meet with “Legends” — people who had been successful in law and made a positive impact on society. Students at Friendship Charter School Woodridge Campus had breakfast with Ed then took part in a Street Law class taught by him.

In the summer of 2012, Ed traveled to Chiang Mai, Thailand, to volunteer with friend Bruce Lasky, founder of Bridges Across Borders Southeast Asia Community Legal Education Initiation (BABSEA), an international access to justice, legal education program that uses Street Law as a basis of its teaching mission in law school clinics throughout South Asia.

In January-February of 2015, Ed traveled with May to Kathmandu, Nepal to lead a UN-sponsored Democracy Education Workshop, co-sponsored by the Council for a Community of Democracies and the Nepal-based Institute for Governance and Development, to create plans and guidelines for civic and democracy education Nepal. He also led a Street Law workshop for the Nepal Teacher Training Initiative, a program supported by the Washington, DC Rotary Club, which provides teacher training to remote areas of Nepal.

After retiring from Street Law, he became a Professor at the University of District of Columbia, teaching Law and Ethics and the capstone course on Democracy. He was also on the faculty negotiating team working with the SEIU to secure better benefits for UDC Adjunct Professors.

Ed has served on the board and committees of many organizations, including the American Bar Association, the American Civil Liberties Union-National Capital Area, the American Association of Law Schools, the D.C. Bar, the National Assembly of Health and Human Services, the Rotary Club of Washington, D.C., Civitas International, and Capitol Hill Restaurants Inc.

In this last capacity as a restauranteur, he was the co-owner of the Rogue and Jar pub in Dupont Circle, The Man in the Green Hat restaurant on Capitol Hill and Colonel Brooks Tavern in Brookland, which resulted in a life-long appreciation of a good Scotch, a taste for prime rib and good food. Co-worker and friend Margaret Fisher commented that, “Ed was always the one who knew where the best restaurants were and where the best drinks were to be had, without any help from Yelp. He loved life and it was contagious. Any one who knew Ed, knew his laugh and his wit. He also had a nose for people who were genuine and cared about making a difference in the world.”

* * *

ed2Ed O’Brien was born on September 21, 1945, the son of William J. O’Brien and Elizabeth Lee, and grew up in Douglaston, Queens, New York, spending carefree summers in Cape May in an old Victorian gingerbread house on Gurney Street, a block from the ocean. He attended Holy Cross High School, a Catholic boys school, in Flushing, New York, where a group of high school buddies known as the “Kings” continue to raise hell regularly at annual reunions. Since his father died in 1995 at the age of 102, he always thought he would have a long life.

Edward L. O’Brien is survived by his beloved wife, May Yoneyama Gwinn O’Brien; a son, John and his wife Saba Brevi; a daughter, Beth and her husband, Marlon Banta; a stepson, Michael Palmer and his partner, Molly Brown; and a stepdaughter, Mary and her husband, Terry McDonald; three grandchildren, Hamza, Sasha and Neila from John’s marriage; a step-grand-daughter, Maggie, from Mary’s marriage; an older brother William; and their lovable dog “T” or Tristan. Michael recalled fondly that Ed frequently dashed around with his shirttails flying.

Ed loved baseball and was a Nats fan, but his lifelong passion was playing golf, and his dream of going to St. Andrews was fulfilled on a Rotary Friendship tour of Scotland a couple of years ago. He was a voracious reader, often frequenting his favorite neighborhood bookstore, Politics and Prose, and was a dedicated fan of “Morning Joe,” Krista Tippett’s “On Being,” Nelson Mandela and the Dali Lama.   He also had a new interest in the arts and was an avid museum goer; on the last day of his life, he made a point of taking his bride to the new Whitney Museum at the end of the High Line, which he declared was the best museum in New York.

He could be seen on his daily walks with his headphones on taking his exercise routine around his neighborhood of Chevy Chase DC, always friendly, stopping to talk to neighbors, and to pick up his Souper Girl order from Gerald Davis, his personal trainer, in the Chevy Chase arcade.


On Thursday, July 9, 2015, Edward Lee O’Brien was interred at the Meade Memorial Cemetery in White Post, VA, the Lee/Meade family cemetery.


In lieu of flowers, a memorial donations may be made to “Street Law—South Africa,” streetlaw.org.za, c/o Professor David McQuoid-Mason, Center for Socio-Legal Studies, Howard College Campus, Hut 11, Durban 4041, South Africa– to provide scholarships to those who are otherwise unable to attend the “Ed O’Brien International Street Law Best Practices Conference” in 2016 (the conference is celebrating the 30th anniversary of the founding of the first ever international Street Law program, which took place at the University of KwaZulu-Natal); or Nepal Teacher Training Innovations, nepaltti.org; or the Arlington Academy of Hope, aahuganda.org – all non-profit organizations.

“What we have once enjoyed and love we can never lose, All that we love deeply becomes part of us and can never be parted. Ed will remain in our hearts forever. May the departed soul rest in peace.”  – Sumit Kapoor, upon hearing about Ed’s passing.

Protect the Public Protector

We, as a Law School, have a proud history of speaking out against violation of and threats to the rule of law. The Society of Law Teachers of Southern Africa (SLTSA) gave an undertaking to the TRC in 1997 that law schools would always protect the rule of law and  ensure that the foundational principles of our constitutional democracy not be undermined.

In order to protect institutions that have been set up to strengthen democracy, we are obliged to issue the following statement:

  1. The Constitution must be interpreted in a manner that advances the founding principles of democratic governance, accountability, responsiveness and openness.
  2. An independent, effective and functional Public Protector is vital if we are to attain this objective.
  3. Interpretations of the Constitution which advance short- term political and other parochial interests but undermine constitutional institutions cannot be countenanced.

We condemn in the strongest terms any attempt to undermine the office of the Public Protector; whether it be by members of the Executive, Members of Parliament, leading politicians or members of the public.

We wish to place on record the following:

  1. Section 181(2) of the Constitution requires the Chapter 9 institutions, which include the Public Protector and her office, to carry out their mandate ‘without fear, favour or prejudice’.
  2. Section 181(3) of the Constitution requires ‘other organs of state, through legislative and other measures to ‘assist and protect’ Chapter 9 institutions, including the Public Protector’s office, ‘to ensure the independence, impartiality, dignity and effectiveness of these institutions’.
  3. Section 237 requires all constitutional obligations to be performed diligently.
  4. The Public Protector submitted a comprehensive report after an exhaustive process into the upgrading of the Nkandla complex and concluded that the President and his family improperly benefitted and suggested remedial action.
  5. The findings of the Public Protector may only be reviewed by a court of law, and any review of her findings by the ad hoc Parliamentary committee, the MPs, the Ministerial task team, the Special Investigative Unit (SIU), an Individual Minister or any other body or person, would be contrary to the rule of law and unconstitutional.
  6.  Parliament is required to study the remedial action recommended by the Public Protector in her report in order to hold the relevant person accountable.
  7. It is not within the powers of Parliament to determine whether the Public Protector’s conclusions were correct or not.
  8. The report of the Public Protector is that of an independent constitutional institution and may not be treated as if it is of equivalent status to other reports on the Nkandla complex, compiled at the behest of the Executive or by agencies which report to the Executive.

We therefore call upon members of the Executive, the ad hoc Parliamentary committee, MPs and spokespersons for the ruling party to desist with immediate effect from making unconstitutional and ill-conceived attacks on the office of the Public Protector and her office and to implement her recommendations.

If the public would like to join the campaign to protect the public protector they can visit #tag.protect the public protector.

School of Law, University of KwaZulu-Natal,

Endorsed by the South African Law Deans Association (SALDA) and by the Society for Law Teachers in Southern Africa (SLTSA).

OHCHR 2012 Report

The 2012 Report of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights has been released. The thematic issues dealt with include impunity and the rule of law and violence and security. It also contains a number of case studies on African countries in relation to torture and arbitrary detention.

The report is available at http://www2.ohchr.org/english/ohchrreport2012/web_en/allegati/downloads/1_Whole_OHCHR_Report_2012.pdf

Immigration: SA still not dealing effectively with asylum seekers

SA attracts the largest number of asylum seekers in the world, but grants refugee status to very few, ranking only 36th in the world for the size of its refugee population, which the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) puts at about 58 000, notes an Irin report.

The Department of Home Affairs approved just 15.5% of the applications it processed in 2011, less than half the global average recognition rate of 38%, according to UNHCR.

Researchers and activists have repeatedly pointed to serious flaws in the country’s refugee status determination process, including the lack of individualised assessments, misapplications of both local and international refugee law, and high levels of corruption among Home Affairs officials. The government’s routine response has been that its asylum system is simply overwhelmed by the sheer number of applications it receives.

Source: LegalBrief

HRW Report on forced marriages of children

A recently published 95-page Human Rights Watch report documents the consequences of child marriage, the near total lack of protection for victims who try to resist marriage or leave abusive marriages, and the many obstacles they face in accessing mechanisms of redress.

It is based on interviews with 87 girls and women in Central Equatoria, Western Equatoria, and Jonglei states, as well as with government officials, traditional leaders, health care workers, legal and women’s rights experts, teachers, prison officials, and representatives of nongovernmental organizations, the United Nations, and donor organizations.

Read the full report:  Human Rights Watch report This old man can feed us, and you will marry him

News updates

Human Rights Watch World Report: Human Rights Watch has released its 2013 World Report. It raises a number of concerns, including torture, lengthy pre-trial detention and the abuse of civilians by military officials, in respect of a number of African countries. The report is available at https://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/wr2013_web.pdf#page=120&zoom=auto,0,251

International Juvenile Justice Observatory (IJJO): The IJJO has released its January 2013 Newletter. It contains an editorial piece on the International Detention Coalition’s research based on children’s experiences in immigration detention, covering a range of countries, including Somalia and Ethiopia. The newsletter is available at http://www.oijj.org/en/sala-prensa/boletines

Access to justice for women: The International Development Law Organisation has released a manual entitled “Accessing Justice: models, strategies and best practices on women’s empowerment.” The manual contains a number of examples and case studies from women in African countries. The manual is available at http://www.idlo.int/Publications/Women-AccesstoJustice.pdf

Police detention monitoring manual released

Police detention monitoring manual: The Association for the Prevention of Torture has released a manual entitled “Monitoring Police Custody – a practical guide.”

The manual is intended to assist anyone carrying out monitoring visits to police stations or other similar detention facilities and preventive activities concerning the police conduct.

The report is available at www.apt.ch/en/resources/monitoring-police-custody-a-practical-guide/

Interview about Domestic Violence with Dep.Min of Justice

Transcript copy of Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development Andries Carl Nel’s interview about domestic violence

(as seen on eNews Channel Africa (eNCA), Thursday 21 February 2013)

Ayanda-Allie Paine (eNCA News Anchor): let’s turn our attention to this now for a moment. The portfolio Committee on Police is calling the amendment for the Domestic Violent Act. The recent increase of domestic violence case has prompted the call to also re-evaluate the Impact the legislation has had on the fight against women and child abuse. The Chairperson of Parliament’s police committee, Annelize van Wyk says the Act doesn’t adequately protect women. Let’s get a reaction from the Deputy Justice Minister, Andries Nel. A very good morning to you and thank you so much for your time.

Question: Does a piece of legislation as it stands suits or benefit women?

Deputy Minister Andries Nel: Very definitely, I think the Domestic Violence Act is one of the best and most progressive pieces of legislation in the world and I think at the time it was adopted, it was absolutely groundbreaking in the provision that it had on the protection of women and also the fact that it was one of the few pieces of legislation in the world that recognize same sex of couples as domestic partners for the purpose of that Act.

Ayanda-Allie Paine: Deputy Minister, if I may interject there. Why the need to make amendments? What are these amendments you seek to make?

Deputy Minister Andries Nel: I think the legislation is basically sound. However, there are number of provision within the Act that have cause complication in terms of implementation. We have asked the South African Law Reform Commission to look at the legislation, to look at where it can be improved and especially, to look at those provision that have run into serious-serious implementation problems to be reviewed.

Ayanda-Allie Paine: The South African Judicial System is under scrutiny not just with the case of Oscar Pistorious but also in previous judgment made against high profile public figures. In your opinion, do you think that our Judiciary is lacking?

Deputy Minister Andries Nel: I think our judiciary and our Criminal Justice System is a very-very sound system. Our Criminal Justice System has succeeded in less than 20 years, to bring down the murder rate in this country from 32000 to 16000 murders. Many other levels of serious crime have come down. That is because, as crime Justice System, we have reviewed that system; we are implementing the plan to bring together Police, the Prosecution, Courts, the present Legal Aid, and Social Development into very-very tight and effective system. I think we’ve seen that during big event such as the World Cup and we have seen that in a number of other instances. Are there problems? Yes, there are problems. Are there serious problems? Yes, there are serious problems. Do we have plans to address those? Yes, we do. Are we addressing those? Yes, we are.

Ayanda-Allie Paine: One of those problems you might be talking about is the issue of Secondary Victimization, many abused women or rape victims saying that they don’t want to take their cases to court because is just not properly handled in the Judicial System?

Deputy Minister Andries Nel: Well, absolutely, one of the reason why the Minister of Justice announced that we will be re-introducing Sexual Offences Courts. Those courts will focus on sexual offences, they will have judicial officers that are experienced in those matter and they will have Prosecutors and support staff in those court as well as facilities such as Videos, Testifying Facilities such as separate Waiting Facilities for victims and witnesses that will minimize that Secondary Victimization. In addition to that, we have a system of Thuthuzela Care Centres, 51 in total, 32 of which are fully operational and we have to bring up to 45 during this year, where a victim of sexual offences can go and receive one stop support, for medical personnel, for Counselors, for other Social services to make sure that he or she is not shuttled through the Criminal Justice System and subjected to that Secondary Victimization. These centres has being very-very successful and in fact they represent the International base practice they are being implemented incorporated in many other parts of the world and even being called Thuthuzela Care Centre in those countries.

Ayanda-Allie Paine: Deputy Minister if I may cut in there quickly, my apology for ……….

Deputy Minister Andries Nel: if can just quickly say, the Thuthuzela Care Centre, since the previous financial year to this year the number of victims who have come those centres has risen from 20000 to 28000. I think that is an indication that people do have confidence in our Criminal Justice System. Yes, they are problems. Yes, we are attending to those.

Ayanda-Allie Paine: Will have to leave it there for now, thank you so much for your time, Deputy Justice Minister Andries. Thank you again.

The Right2Know campaign has lashed out at the government for failing to comply with the Promotion of Access to Information Act

Two out of three requests for information through PAIA were refused by government departments last year, spokesperson Murray Hunter points out in a report in The Times.

‘If compliance with the Promotion of Access to Information Act is a litmus test for the state of government and corporate accountability, the signs are worrying,’ he said. According to a 2012 survey by the South African History Archive, which facilitates and tracks Promotion of Access to Information Act requests, of the 159 submitted, 102 were either outright refused or simply received no response within the 30-day deadline.

‘While the ‘big ticket’ secrets get much attention, many South Africans are denied much more basic information that they need in their daily lives and struggles,’ said Hunter. This ranged from information pertaining to housing lists to water pollution, municipal budgets and corruption. Director of the Institute for Accountability Southern Africa, Advocate Paul Hoffman, is quoted as saying the government appeared to be preparing ‘for the more secret and less open form of administration’.

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