Update with the Wits Justice Project in South Africa…

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I am cutting and pasting below an email from the Wits Justice Project in South Africa.  I had the pleasure of visiting these folks about 2 years ago.  They are a first-class organization.

The Wits Justice Project team – Nooshin, Carolyn, Gift, Grethe, Robyn, Ruth and Tshepang – would like to thank you for your support and encouragement in 2012 and wish you a restful and safe holiday and festive season and a very successful 2013.

We have had a tremendously exciting year and would like to share some of the highlights with you:

a. Journalism

  • WJP won the Webber Wentzel Legal Journalist of the Year award for the second year in a row. Senior journalist, Ruth Hopkins, won first prize and our other senior journalist, Carolyn Raphaely, was first runner-up for her articles on torture. Carolyn won this prestigious award last year, in 2011.

The articles for which Ruth won her award were in two categories. The first looks at the scourge of TB in our prisons and how it has affected both the inmates and their families.

1. “Sisters probe TB scourge in prison” http://mg.co.za/article/2012-04-13-sisters-probe-tb-scourge-in-prisonwhich appeared in the Mail & Guardian and

2. “SA prisons: hotbed for spread of TB inside and outside” http://www.journalism.co.za/index.php/wjpnews/5064-sa-prisons-hotbed-for-tb-inside-and-outside.html which appeared in the Saturday Star.

The second category was the systemic failures which cause unreasonable delays in finalizing cases.

1. “Incarcerated since 2007 – but trial hasn’t progressed” http://www.iol.co.za/the-star/incarcerated-since-2007-but-trial-hasn-t-progressed-1.1255807 which appeared in The Star, show the consequences of court delays,

2. “Who is watching the lawyers?” (with Grethe Koen) http://www.iol.co.za/saturday-star/who-is-watching-the-lawyers-1.1328182 which appeared in the Saturday Star.

b. Advocacy

  • WJP project coordinator, Nooshin, was asked to speak at various conferences on issues affecting remand detainees and other matters affecting the criminal justice system . This included the “Helen Suzman Foundation Quarterly Roundtable on Remand Detention”; a seminar on “Abuse of Force: Understanding the systemic drivers of abuse of force”; and the “Colloquium Towards Finding Solutions for South Africa’s High Rate of Incarceration and Breaking the Cycle of Crime”, hosted by the Minister of Correctional Services.
  • The WJP is a founding and committee member of Detention Justice Forum, a collective of about 20 organizations working in the social justice sector, including Sonke Gender Justice, Detention Justice International, Institute of Security Studies, NICRO, Phoenix Zululand, CSPRI etc.

c. Law

  • In collaboration with the Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS), the WJP joined Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) and entered as amici in the matter of Dudley Lee v Minister of Correctional Services before theConstitutional Court. In a ruling handed down this week, the ConCourt found that the Department of Correctional Services negligently caused Dudley Lee to become infected with tuberculosis while detained in Pollsmoor prison from 1999 to 2004. The Court, therefore, held that the DCS should be liable to Lee. This landmark case  highlights the State’s responsibility for ensuring that the constitutional rights of detainees are maintained and safeguarded. The Court described the judgment as “of importance, not only to the parties, but also to other inmates and the health sector generally”[1].  The judgment also upholds the right to a remedy for other individuals in Lee’s position.

The full, joint statement from the amici is available online on our blog: http://witsjusticeproject.wordpress.com/2012/12/12/joint-press-statement-landmark-judgment-handed-down-by-the-constitutional-court-on-the-management-of-tuberculosis-in-prisons/

  • Two other cases continue to receive support and input from the WJP team. The first is the St Alban’s Torture case, being pursued by Egon Oswald (representing 231 tortured inmates). The second is the pursuit of a presidential pardon for Fusi Mofokeng and Tshokolo Mokoena (whom the WJP helped obtain parole after 19 years of wrongful imprisonment).

d. Education

  • For their final project, the students of the journalism department Career-Entry Honours class took part in an in-depth exploration of aspects of the South African criminal justice system. They worked in partnership with the WJP, whose journalists and research staff provided mentorship and guidance through the project. All the projects (including features and multi-media pieces) are available on Joburg Justice, a dedicated site:http://journalism.co.za/indepth/joburgjustice/

We look forward to building on these excellent results, and to continue to work to improve the South African criminal justice system for all.

2 responses to “Update with the Wits Justice Project in South Africa…

  1. i guess the judgment also upholds the right to a remedy for other individuals in Lee’s position.

  2. Pingback: International Expansion of the Innocence Movement in 2012 | Wrongful Convictions Blog

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