Three major cases in one week for SALC
Appearing in court in SA and Zambia
It's going to be a busy week for the Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC), which will be involved in cases in the Constitutional Court and the South Gauteng High Court in South Africa as well as the Lusaka Magistrates Court in Zambia - cases dealing with freedom of expression and the interplay between refugee law and international criminal law.
This case began when the Mail and Guardian and other media houses applied for access to Czech fugitive, Radovan Krejcir’s hearing before the Refugee Appeal Board. The media houses were refused access on the basis that the asylum application process is confidential, and they then instituted legal proceedings in the North Gauteng High Court. Judge Fabricius found that under South Africa’s Refugees Act confidentiality “pervades the entire proceedings, from lodgement of the application until after the conclusion of an appeal or review,” and that the asylum seeker’s interest in having the proceedings confidential outweighed the public’s interest in having access to hearings. The media houses appealed this ruling to the Constitutional Court.
SALC has been admitted as amicus curiae (friend of the court) and has provided submissions that argue that while confidentiality is a vital tool in ensuring the safety of asylum seekers, refugees and their families, a flexible system is required to allow for that confidentiality to be lifted in some exceptional circumstances.
15 and 16 May - People v Paul Kasonkomona
On 7 April, Paul Kasonkomona, a respected HIV activist and National Coordinator of Engender Rights-Zambia, was arrested after he appeared on television arguing that the rights of sexual minorities – including lesbian, gay bisexual and transgendered people and sex workers - should be recognised in order to effectively address the HIV epidemic. Kasonkomona was eventually released on bail four days later.
Kasonkomona was charged with violating section 178(g) of the Zambian Penal Code, which provides that “every person who in any public place solicits for immoral purposes” is deemed an idle and disorderly person, and liable to imprisonment for one month or to a fine.
"It is of great concern in any democratic state when outdated nuisance-related offences are arbitrarily used by the police to silence alternative or unpopular views,” stated Anneke Meerkotter, LGBT/Sex Work Project Lawyer at SALC.
SALC and SBN Legal Practitioners are providing legal support to Kasonkomona in the case.
17 May - Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa v President of the Republic of South Africa
In June 2011, former Rwandan army general and suspected war criminal, Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa, survived an apparent assassination attempt and was soon thereafter granted refugee status in South Africa. The Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa (CoRMSA) supported by SALC submitted a briefing paper to the South African refugee authorities explaining why the grant of asylum was problematic.
After receiving no meaningful response CoRMSA and SALC launched judicial review proceedings in the North Gauteng High Court seeking a declaration that the decision to grant Nyamwasa refugee status was unlawful.
The matter was postponed last November, and will be heard on 17 May at the South Gauteng High Court.