Shrien Dewani judge cleared of bias claims

2015-04-25 09:31

The Judicial Conduct Committee (JCC) yesterday dismissed claims that Western Cape High Court Judge Jeanette Traverso was biased against the prosecution during the trial of Shrien Dewani.

“The complaints by Justice4Anni and HETN are dismissed in terms of… the JSC Act,” reads the ruling by Judges Monica Leeuw and Mahube Molemela.

The Justice4Anni group and Higher Education Transformation Network (HETN) both complained that Traverso was friendly towards Dewani’s lawyers, and rude and aggressive to state prosecutor Adrian Mopp during the trial last year.

Dewani was accused of plotting with others to kill his wife Anni during their honeymoon in Cape Town in November 2010. In December last year, Traverso found him not guilty of the murder.

The JCC said Traverso’s treatment of Mopp was merely “robust engagement”.

Jacobus Verschuur, who submitted a dossier on behalf of Justice4Anni, based his claims of “blatant bias” on tweets, news websites and newspaper articles, and briefings from people who were in court.

Justice4Anni acknowledged not having access to the official transcript of the court record.

The JCC said both complainants were merely expressing opinions not based on facts or borne out by the record of proceedings.

‘Grossly negligent and incompetent’

Lucky Thekisho, acting for the HETN, claimed Traverso was grossly negligent and incompetent, and attacked Traverso’s Afrikaner background and race.

“There is nothing to suggest that he was authorised by HETN to lodge this complaint and that he has personal knowledge of what transpired during the court proceedings,” the JCC said.

According to Thekisho’s written complaint, “in the light of the colour composition of both legal teams, Judge Traverso was predisposed towards showing hostility against the black prosecutor, who was up against all the Afrikaners [in the] defence team”.

Thekisho alleged that, since Traverso was the daughter of Blaar Coetzee, the apartheid-era deputy minister of Bantu administration and development, she had not embraced a new constitutional dispensation and black majority government.

The JCC said Dewani’s lawyers Francois van Zyl and Andre Botha, and Traverso’s assessors Johann Gerber and Penelope Magona, all refuted the allegations. In addition the Western Cape Director of Public Prosecutions and Mopp did not apply for Traverso’s recusal.

The JCC had harsh words for Thekisho.

“Mr Thekisho has a right to express his opinion on the performance of judges, but this does not give him the right to insult a judge and make snide remarks which tend to undermine the respect and dignity to be accorded to the judiciary of this country.”

Thekisho told News24 he was aware of the JCC’s decision but would comment later.

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