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

Minister defends Legal Practice Bill Published in: Legalbrief Today

Category: Policy
Issue No: 3283

Justice and Constitutional Development Deputy Minister Andries Nel has refuted allegations that provisions in the Legal Practice Bill that seek to empower the Minister to appoint three members of the proposed Legal Practice Council out of a total of 21 are a deliberate move by government to control it, reports Legalbrief Policy Watch.

Reiterating government’s commitment to strengthening the independence, dignity, accessibility and effectiveness of the courts as part of the process of transforming the legal profession as a whole, Nel told the annual meeting of the Black Lawyers Association that ‘the untransformed state of the legal profession’ not only constitutes a ‘stumbling block’ to greater access to legal services and justice: it also impedes the further transformation of the judiciary.

While it will be the role of the Minister’s appointees to assist the council in its efforts to address this, they will not be in a position to drive the process. According to the Deputy Minister, ‘elites … who have done well under the current rules’ consider government attempts at transformation as ‘akin to … tyranny’, projecting themselves as victims. SA ‘s Constitution does not give an elite the right to carry out decisions ‘in an opaque way for their own benefit’, or to ‘permanently engage in … vices’ that prevent others from ‘ascending the ladders of the legal profession’, Nel said.
Full Legalbrief Policy Watch report

HRC Bill introduced in Parliament

The HRC introduced a Bill in Parliament that seeks to provide for the composition, powers, functions and functioning of the South African Human Rights Commission; and to provide for matters connected therewith.

Read the full Bill: South African Human Rights Commission Bill 2013

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/

Offensive tweets could mean jail time – lawyer

A lawyer has warned South Africans to be careful about what they tweet, because offensive posts could result in charges being filed – and even a possible jail term of between three and six months.

Emma Sadleir, a social media lawyer at Webber Wentzel, is quoted in a report in The Times as saying Twitter and Facebook users who put up racist or offensive posts could be charged with crimen injuria or face a complaint under the Equality Act.

‘It is not unusual for a person who is found guilty of crimen injuria to be imprisoned in SA,’ Sadleir said. ‘I know of two separate cases in which policemen were called [by] the ‘k’ word and in both instances, the person was sentenced to jail for a period of three to six months.’

Like any other form of publication, online users are held liable for all comments they make on social networks, even when retweeting and sharing posts. The report notes Sadleir said anonymous users were not exempted from criminal charges, or complaints laid with the Equality Court against unfair discrimination, harassment and hate speech. This is because it is possible to get a court order compelling a website to hand over any information like e-mail or an IP address identifying the person who set up the account.

Improvement to UIF benefits, better cover for domestic workers

After last year’s controversial legislative programme introducing the regulation of labour broking, the Department of Labour’s planned amendments this year are benign and likely to be welcomed by labour unions, says a Business Day report.

A departmental spokesperson said that two were in the offing – an improvement in the benefits of the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) and the incorporation of more than 500 000 domestic workers under the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act. He did not provide details about the second amendment. A UIF spokesperson said last year that the fund planned to extend the payment of benefits to the unemployed from eight months to 12 months.

The UIF also intended to extend the grace period during which unemployment benefits can first be claimed, to 18 months from six months. The report adds the extension of compensation to domestic workers would follow SA’s ratification of the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) international convention on domestic workers, adopted by the ILO conference in Geneva in 2011. It lays down labour standards for domestic workers and will come into force this year.

Legal Brief, 18 January 2013

Third National Schools Moot Court Competition

The Universities of Pretoria, Venda, the Western Cape, CLASI at the University of Cape Town and the Departments of Justice and Constitutional Development and Basic Education, the SA Human Rights Commission and the Foundation for Human Rights will be presenting the third annual National Schools Moot Court Competition for senior learners (grade 11 and 12 in 2013) in all secondary schools in SA this year, says a report on the Legalbrief Today site.

The competition is aimed at creating greater awareness of the SA Constitution and the values that it embodies. The best nine submissions in each of the nine provinces will be identified and the selected learners will be invited to participate in person in the provincial oral rounds, in the nine provinces, in May and June 2013. The best four teams from each province will then participate in the national oral rounds in Pretoria in August 2013.

The two winning teams with the highest scores will compete against each other to determine an overall winning team in the final round in August 2013. For more details on the competition, please see www.up.ac.za/law. Alternatively contact the organiser, Cherryl Botterill, at cherryl.botterill@gmail.com for more information.

Source: LegalBrief 16 January 2013


Law on teenage sex infringes child rights – ruling

Laws that make consensual s ex between teenagers a crime are unconstitutional, a High Court found yesterday. The Criminal Law (S exual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act had been widely condemned as absurd and unenforceable. It makes it a criminal offence for children between the ages of 12 and 16 to have s ex – even when they consented to it, notes a BDlive report. It also makes consensual kissing, and even cuddling, an offence if there is an age difference of more than two years between the children.

Last year, the Teddy Bear Clinic and Rapcan challenged the Act, arguing that instead of protecting children, the effect of the law was to traumatise them by exposing them to the criminal justice system. In his judgment, Judge Pierre Rabie said it was clear that ‘s exual violation’ was defined so broadly in the Act that it ‘includes conduct (such as kissing and light petting) that virtually every normal adolescent participates in at some stage or another’.

’There can be no doubt that the impugned provisions as they stand, infringe a range of constitutional rights of children,’ he said. Rabie said to subject ‘intimate personal relationships to the coercive force of the criminal law’ was to ‘insert state control into the most intimate area of adolescents’ lives’. Rabie said the Act was overly and unjustifiably broad, but he tailored his order carefully, so that it would still be a crime when the sexual conduct was between adults and children, or where it was not consensual.

Source: Legalbrief, 16 January 2013