Legal representation not absolute: Bizos

2013-07-12 16:37
(File: Sapa)

(File: Sapa)

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Pretoria - Legal representation at a commission of inquiry is not an absolute right, veteran human rights lawyer George Bizos told the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria on Friday.

"We do not contend that the right to legal representation at commissions is an absolute right."

He was speaking during an urgent application, brought by lawyer Dali Mpofu, that miners wounded and arrested at Marikana last year were entitled to legal representation at the State's expense.

Bizos, for the Legal Resources Centre, one of the applicants in the case, said whether representation was a right depended on the context.

The circumstances where representation would be a right were determined by the nature of the inquiry and whether it demanded some or all parties be legally represented.

It also depended on if the interests of justice and the rule of law would be undermined by failure to uphold the right, and if the constitutional rights of parties or witnesses appearing before a commission were implicated or potentially threatened.

"We submit that all three conditions are met in the context of the applicants, who are before the [Farlam] Commission [of Inquiry], for reasons that we will briefly explain during close of our argument."

Mpofu brought the application on Thursday. He is representing the miners arrested and wounded at Marikana at the inquiry.

"This matter concerns a great plethora of constitutional and statutory rights," Mpofu submitted in his heads of argument.

These included access to justice, the prohibition against unfair discrimination, and the right to legal representation.

In a nutshell, the matter concerned justice, the rule of law, economic inequality or class discrimination, and fairness, he said.


He told the court the legal team had not received any funding for the term June to October, and that the commission was unlikely to finish its work by its extended deadline of 31 October.

The commission is investigating the circumstances surrounding the deaths of 34 striking Lonmin mineworkers shot by police in Marikana, North West, on 16 August, and the deaths of 10 people in strike-related violence the previous week.

Mpofu wanted President Jacob Zuma and Justice Minister Jeff Radebe to approve payment for the mineworkers' legal team.

He proposed that, as the court proceedings were unlikely to conclude by the end of the week, interim relief be granted, so as not to interfere with the commission, which would resume on Monday.

Outside the court a large group of miners and their families sang and danced in Church Square on Friday.

Read more on:    lonmin  |  jeff radebe  |  george bizos  |  dali mpofu  |  marikana inquiry

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