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Journal Article: Africa, Prisons and COVID-19 Journal for Human Rights Practice; Volume 12, No 2
Author: Janelle
Published: Jul 06, 2021

Africa’s prisons are a long-standing concern for rights defenders given the prevalence of rights abuses, overcrowding, poor conditions of detention and the extent to which the criminal justice system is used to target the poor. The paper surveys 24 southern and east African countries within the context of COVID-19. Between 5 March and 15 April 2020 COVID-19 had spread to 23 southern and east African countries, except Lesotho. The overwhelming majority of these countries imposed general restrictions on their populations from March 2020 and nearly all restricted visits to prisons to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The pandemic and government responses demonstrated the importance of reliable and up to date data on the prison population, and any confined population, as it became evident that such information is sorely lacking. The World Health Organization recommended the release of prisoners to ease congestion, a step supported by the UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture. However, the lack of data and the particular African context pose some questions about the desirability of such a move. The curtailment of prison visits by external persons also did away with independent oversight even in states parties to the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT). In the case of South Africa, prison monitors were not listed in the ensuing legislation as part of essential services and thus were excluded from access to prisons. In the case of Mozambique, it was funding being placed on hold by the donor community that prevented the Human Rights Commission from visiting prisons. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted long-standing systemic problems in Africa’s prisons. Yet African states have remained remarkably reluctant to engage in prison reform, despite the fact that poorly managed prisons pose a significant threat to general public health care.

Journal article: Democratic policing: A conceptual framework
Author: Jean
Published: Jun 22, 2021

Democratic policing, as opposed to regime policing, must meet at least three requirements: there is democratic accountability of and for the police; the police adhere to the rule of law; and the police behave in a manner that is procedurally fair in service of the public. The article presents a conceptual framework of nine dimensions applicable to different contexts with a view to facilitate policies and practices towards democratic policing. It is argued that the ultimate result being sought is a legitimate police service. If legitimacy is the result, then trust is the outcome preceding it. Legitimacy is dependent on the public’s trust that State power will be used in the public interest. Public trust therefore fulfils an important legitimising function. Levels of trust in the police are driven by the police’s ability and performance record with reference to three outputs: objectivity, empathy and responsivity. The latter three outputs flow from five input variables, namely: knowledge of what works in creating a safer society from a policing perspective; rights-based policing; accountability of the policing (inclusive of transparency); efficiency and effectiveness of resource utilisation; and the police as citizens also entitled to rights and protections. The utility of the conceptual framework lies in providing a coherent and linked-up view to analyse police organisations and support the development of reform proposals.

Conference Report on Covid-19 and the Decriminalisation of Petty Offences in Africa, 14-15 September 2020
Author: Kristen
Published: Mar 29, 2021

From 14–16 September 2020, the Regional Campaign to Decriminalise Petty Offences in Africa co-hosted with the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), an online conference to discuss the impact of measures to combat the spread of COVID-19 on poor and marginalised people. The conference brought together over 200 participants, and panelists shared both continent-wide perspectives, as well as country-specific examples from the Central African Republic, Guinea, Kenya, Malawi, Morocco, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tunisia and Uganda. The conference report is attached here for ease of reference. For more information on the campaign, please go to

Fact Sheet 9: Failing to discipline in SAPS
Author: Jean
Published: Jan 28, 2021

Recent media reports showed again how police officials grossly misused their power and, against departmental prescripts, used a 'sjambok' to assault a man for apparently not wearing a mask. Such reports are not isolated and have a very direct impact on trust in the police and thus the legitimacy of the police. The core of the problem seems to be twofold (1) that SAPS managers are not enforcing the internal disciplinary code, and (2) the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) very rarely prosecutes police officials, especially for human rights violations. We have updated ACJR Fact sheet 9 (originally published in February 2019) with statistics for the past two financial years and it appears that the situation has worsened. This does not bode well for general trust in the state and specifically in the police. There is little sense in tough talk about law enforcement when the police themselves are not being held accountable and increasingly regarded as hostile to the general public.

Recommendations for reform of the National Prosecuting Authority
Author: Jean
Published: Nov 11, 2020

Following from previous work, this report looks at seven areas of reform for the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA). By its own admission the NPA is facing a long list of challenges, internally and externally. This report proposes seven areas of reform that can over the short to medium term, if followed, make a substantial and constructive contribution to rebuilding trust in the NPA. The seven areas are: • the appointment of the NDPP and other senior officials • the dismissal of the NDPP • the prosecution policy directives • referrals from other agencies • informal mediation • structuring the clusters of the NPA • general oversight. An unavoidable conclusion is that law reform is needed since the current legal framework enabled the hollowing-out and misuse of the NPA.

Alternativas à prisão em Moçambique: A implementação do trabalho socialmente útil
Author: Jean
Published: Oct 07, 2020

Em Dezembro de 2020 entrarão em vigor em Moçambique o Código Penal revisto, o novo Código de Processo Penal e o Código de Execução das Penas. Embora serão introduzidas mudanças substanciais relacionadas com as alternativas à prisão e especificamente ao trabalho socialmente útil (TSU), este relatório avalia a implementação do TSU em Moçambique entre 2015 e 2019. Examina o seu uso pelos tribunais e a implementação pelo Serviço Nacional Penitenciário (SERNAP). As conclusões apontam para vários problemas de implementação, como o seu uso pouco frequente pelos tribunais, bem como desafios na monitoria dos infractores pelo Serviço de Penas Alternativas à Pena de Prisão (SPAPP). Vários problemas sistémicos foram encontrados, como falta de gestão, directrizes processuais e formações e falta de recursos materiais e financeiros necessários para a implementação efectiva do TSU. Independentemente de uma nova estrutura legal, é evidente que será necessário retirar lições valiosas do período em análise. Nas conclusões, o relatório aponta algumas recomendações para abordar as deficiências.

Alternatives to imprisonment in Mozambique: The implementation of community service orders
Author: Jean
Published: Oct 07, 2020

In December 2020 a revised Penal Code and new Criminal Procedure Code and Code on the Implementation of Penalties will enter into force in Mozambique. While substantial changes related to alternatives to imprisonment and specifically to community service will be introduced, this report assesses the implementation of community service orders (CSO) in Mozambique between 2015 and 2019. It examines its use by the courts and implementation by the Department for Corrections. The findings point to several implementation problems, such as its infrequent if not rare use by the courts as well as challenges in monitoring offenders by the Service for Alternatives to Imprisonment. A number of systemic problems were found, such as the lack of management, procedural guidelines, and training; understaffing, and a serious lack of material and financial resources necessary for the effective implementation of CSO. Regardless of a new legal framework, it is submitted that valuable lessons need to be taken from the period under review. Based on the findings, the report concludes with recommendations to address the shortcomings.