Fugitives’ right to life on trial

2012-01-03 00:00

CHIEF Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng has instructed that the Constitutional Court will for the first time in 17 years reconsider the constitutionally entrenched right to life.

Since the court overturned the death penalty in 1995 this right has been seen as one of the most strictly protected in the Constitution, and despite repeated calls for the death penalty to be reinstated, the government has refused to consider this.

The specific aspect of the right to life that the court will consider is that of fugitive murderers from other countries who seek refuge in South Africa in the knowledge that South Africa’s authorities will not extradite them to stand trial if they could face the death penalty.

Two ministers, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma of Home Affairs and Jeff Radebe of Justice, have expressed their opinions on the issue in court papers submitted to Mogoeng.

They argue that South Africa’s stance makes the country an attractive haven for the most hardened murderers from other countries.

The ministers applied for leave to appeal the ruling by the high court in Pretoria that fugitive murderers cannot be sent back to Botswana, whose government refuses to guarantee that they will not face the death penalty.

The high court ruled that the right to life enshrined in the Constitution is guaranteed to all people in South Africa, which includes fugitives and refugees.

Radebe has asked that the Constitutional Court consider this clause with reference to whether it should apply to foreign fugitives from justice.

Mogoeng has instructed that arguments in the application for appeal be made before the 11 judges of the court on February 23.

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