Support access to justice in South Africa

by Lawyers for Human Rights
Support access to justice in South Africa
Support access to justice in South Africa
Support access to justice in South Africa
Support access to justice in South Africa
Feb 16, 2022

Advocacy, Litigation, and Training: a busy Q4 2021

Over the course of the reporting period, Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) attorneys continued to push the social justice agenda, conducting multiple legal empowerment trainings, realising critical litigation victories, and engaging in legal advocacy across our thematic programmes.  

Amongst other initiatives, LHR attended the 7th United Nations negotiating session dedicated to developing a treaty to regulate the activities of transnational corporations and other business enterprises in October 2021.  After six years of discussion and engagement, led by an inter-governmental working group constituted by the Human Rights Council through resolution 26/9, LHR called for State parties, and particularly African State parties, to continue to support this critical process to develop a legally binding instrument at the multilateral level. The envisioned Treaty will level the playing field and avoid fragmented approaches to corporate responsibility that allow for abuse.

In training news, LHR in November 2021 launched  "A PRACTICAL GUIDE: Documentation of Children in South Africa, Including Unaccompanied and Separated Migrant Children," together with Save the Children, with the aim of capacitating and empowering child protection actors. In South Africa, children’s rights are entrenched in the Bill of Rights in the Constitution of South Africa. These rights apply to all children in South Africa and include; the right to education, the right to health care, the right to social assistance, as well as the right to be protected from maltreatment, abuse or degradation. However, in order to secure these rights, children must be documented. Lack of documentation not only deprives children of their rights but impacts all areas of their life. They’re also exposed to serious child protection issues like arrest and detention, child-labour, child-marriage or human-trafficking and face an increased risk of childhood statelessness.  The launch of the Guide was intended to help address the lack of rights awareness on these issues in South Africa and the region. 

LHR was also delighted to launch its Community Capacitation Training Course together with the Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS) and the Centre for Sustainable Mining at the University of the Witwatersrand for mining community activists during the course of the last quarter of 2021. Attended by some 30 activists, and formally accredited by the Mandela Institute at the University of the Witwatersrand, the course was a first of its kind, centred on law and policy, with guest academic lectures on a range of topics.  LHR and CALS look forward to rolling out this course in two additional sessions over 2022, to fundamentally disrupt traditional community rights education, in response to the voices and views of community activists themselves. 

 Finally, a number of litigation victories helped complete the reporting period for LHR. Chief amongst these was a High Court victory on behalf of 200 occupied households of a government sector housing development, the Borwa Community Action Group. In the matter, LHR successfully attacked an eviction order that would have rendered the families homeless if complied with.  the occupiers homeless if complied with. In finding for the community, the High Court drew from an earlier judgement in Johannesburg Metropolitan Municipality vs. Blue Moonlight Properties, where the Constitutional Court stated, “of course, a property owner cannot be expected to provide free housing for the homeless on its property for an indefinite period. But in certain circumstances an owner may have to be somewhat patient and accept that the right to occupation may be temporarily restricted”.  

“This is a significant judgment as it upholds everyone’s right to appear before court according to section 34 of the Constitution," said LHR’s Land and Housing Attorney. "We commend the admirable stance taken by the judiciary in this regard".

Looking ahead after a busy 2021, LHR is off to a strong start in 2022, with bold and creative plans in place after a two-day strategic planning session this month. 

"Across our thematic programmes, from land and housing to environmental rights to penal reform, not to mention our largest programme, refugee and migrant rights, we are focused on continuing to tackle the critical rights infringements of the day, and to continue to bolster and empower the marginalised communities and individuals we serve, though outreach, education, advocacy and - where necessary - the courts", said LHR's National Director. 

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Lawyers for Human Rights

Location: Pretoria - South Africa
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Twitter: @LHR_SA
Project Leader:
Liesl Muller
Pretoria, Gauteng South Africa
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