Court blocks sex register listing

The recent court appearance of a 14-year-old boy who raped younger boys and stabbed a 12-year-old girl has put the spotlight on whether child offenders should be treated differently to adults. The case highlights the dilemma of weighing up the clashing rights of child sex offenders and their victims. The case came to the Cape Town High Court earlier this year on review from the magistrate’s court, which had found the boy guilty of raping three boys, aged six and seven, and of attacking the girl.

At the centre of the matter was whether he should be listed in the national register of sexual offenders. Two weeks ago, the high court found that the law prescribing that all sexual offenders be registered was unconstitutional.

A section of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act prohibits a court from taking into account whether the offence involved kissing or rape, and whether there was consent, and does not allow offenders to make representations as to why they should not be registered. The court gave parliament 18 months in which to amend the section and send it to the Constitutional Court for ratification. It said including a child’s name in the register had “far-reaching implications”, including stigmatisation, and affected the child’s rights to privacy and dignity.

Morgan Courtenay, a lawyer for the Centre for Child Law, which joined the case as an interested party, said one of the “severe” effects of being registered was that it limited employment opportunities. People listed on the register would not be allowed to work in the same environment as children, and in certain instances offenders have to disclose their convictions to employers. They might not be allowed to adopt children.

Though the aim of the register is to protect children and the mentally disabled from sex predators, Courtenay said children should not be treated like adults because they were still developing.

“Generally, they do not understand the consequences of their actions and should be treated differently to adults, who can differentiate between right and wrong,” he said, suggesting that the register be limited to adults.

Kenneth Klopper, the boy’s lawyer, agreed. He argued that children were not mentally or physically “on a par” with adults, which is why the law makes special provision for them, with a focus on rehabilitation.

Cecil Tsegarie, who represented Justice Minister Jeff Radebe , argued that the register should include all sex offenders.

Tsegarie said this extended to the boy because he had “readily admitted that he is a sexual predator of children in stating in his plea that he lusts for sex with children”.

But the high court found that the listing of a child in the register should be considered case by case.

Justice Department spokesman Mthunzi Mhaga said there were over 5000 offenders on the register, most of them adults.

Until the Constitutional Court rules, no child sex offender will be listed, Tsegarie said.

Click here for full Report: IVAN JOHANNES VS STATE High Crt Judgmnt

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

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.

UN, US sanctions DR Congo rebel over atrocities

As written by the Daily Nation

The United Nations and United States on Tuesday ordered sanctions against the head of a rebel group accused of atrocities as it seized territory in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The UN ordered a travel ban and assets freeze against Sultani Makenga, head of the M23 rebels who have been accused of killing and raping civilians as they carve out a mini-state in the mineral-rich east of the African country.

The US government ordered the seizure of any Makenga assets in the United States and banned Americans from dealing with the 38-year-old former DR Congo army colonel. Susan Rice, US ambassador to the United Nations, accused Makenga of “heinous atrocities”.

The M23 rebellion erupted in March this year when mutineers broke away from the army and seized a number of towns near the Nord-Kivu provincial capital of Goma, close to the border with Rwanda and Uganda.

UN experts have accused both neighbouring governments of aiding the rebels.

Makenga is behind “killing and maiming, sexual violence, abduction, and forced displacement,” said a statement by the UN sanctions committee for DR Congo.

“Under the command of Sultani Makenga, M23 has carried out extensive atrocities against the civilian population,” including the rapes of women and children aged as young as eight, the statement added.

“New US and UN sanctions on Sultani Makenga show the world will not stand for heinous atrocities committed on his orders by the M23,” Rice said on Twitter.

“These new sanctions send an important message to other perpetrators of atrocities in DRC: accountability,” she added.

“Makenga is responsible for extensive atrocities against the population in the DRC,” said Adam Szubin, head of the US Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control.

The UN statement said M23 has received arms and other material “in violation of measures taken by the DRC to implement the arms embargo” against the country.

The statement did not say where the arms had come from. Rwanda and Uganda have strongly denied any link to M23 and have condemned a report by UN experts which alleged their backing of the rebels.

By AFP (14 November 2012)