n Law, Democracy & Development - Fighting crime while promoting human rights in the police, the court and the prisons in South Africa




That South Africa is beset by crime is beyond question. It continues to be a considerable impediment to the development of a human rights culture. It often undermines good governance and democratic principles and has a very dire impact on the economy. At the same time the criminal justice system continues to be in crisis, it appears to many to be far from competent. Relatively few suspected criminals appear before the courts and many are acquitted. This sends the message that crime does pay. The norm of few and failed prosecutions also perpetuates a lack of respect among citizens for the rule of law and human rights. This further undermines the legitimacy of the courts. While laws are being enacted that appeal to populist "get tough" notions they do little to curb crime itself. These measures fail to address the real causes of crime and do little to stop crime. They are aimed primarily at appeasing public sentiment, which they hardly achieve, at the expense of human rights and freedoms. This article examines examples of the tensions that exist in South Africa in the areas of crime, human rights and policing, crime, human rights and the courts and crime, human rights and prisons. It makes recommendations of what could be done to try and resolve some of these difficulties.


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