The principle of ‘victims first’ endorsed
FANIE DU TOIT
On 23rd February the Constitutional Court ruled in favour of a civil society coalition that challenged the so-called ‘Special Dispensation for Presidential Pardons for Political Offences’ initiated by President Mbeki in November 2007. The ruling, unanimously awarded with costs against the President, the Minister for Justice and Constitutional Development and a number of Afrikaner right-wing perpetrators, found that ‘given our history, victim participation in accordance with the principles and the values of the TRC was the only rational means to contribute towards national reconciliation and national unity’.
Although the ruling focuses only on the ‘Special Dispensation’, it has the potential to put a spanner in the works of future attempts to pardon political crimes without consulting victims. However, as one expert put it: ‘Consultation does not mean a veto, but at least victims can now no longer be ignored.’
This ruling marks the end of yet another unsuccessful attempt by government to overcome some aspects of the backlog of unfinished TRC cases. It also acts as a stern rebuke to all political parties who participated in the process, including the Democratic Alliance, which has publicly lauded the Constitutional Court finding last week despite having chaired the Presidential advisory committee that originally refused to grant victims access to the ‘Special Dispensation’ process.
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