n South African Journal of Criminal Justice - Twenty years after : the impact of the bill of rights on criminal justice in South Africa : editors' foreword

Volume 27, Issue 3
  • ISSN : 1011-8527
  • E-ISSN: 1996-2118



The criminal justice system was an important mechanism for enforcing apartheid. It criminalised behaviour that in a democratic society would simply be considered the exercise of basic rights, such as choosing whom to marry, where to live, work and play. Draconian security and emergency laws allowed the state to silence dissent : permitting indefinite detention without trial or denying access to legal representation. The concept of equality was devoid of any substantive content. The common law remained in place and gave the criminal justice system a veneer of respectability. However, for the majority of South Africans this was not sufficient to legitimise it.

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