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S/Africa: Court ‘breaks law’ by not freeing Zuma – Lawyer

Refusing to free former president Jacob Zuma while he was waiting a pending decision by the Constitutional Court was breaking…

Refusing to free former president Jacob Zuma while he was waiting a pending decision by the Constitutional Court was breaking international law, his lawyer Dali Mpofu has said.Mpofu said this in response to the court’s request for submissions on the implications of international law on Zuma’s detention while serving 15 months imprisonment for defying the court to attend Commission of Inquiry into State Capture.  

The court was considering whether to rescind its decision that Zuma be imprisoned for contempt of court after he defied its earlier order to testify before the commission that is probing high-level corruption during the former president tenure between 2008 and 2018.

The apparent refusal to release Zuma on whether to rescind the court’s imprisonment order was an “egregious violation” of international law, Mpofu said on Friday. 

Zuma was taken into custody on 8 July to begin the 15-month sentence, and the court heard arguments on 12 July and reserved judgment.

But on 6 August it asked all the parties to the case for legal arguments on whether it is “obliged to consider” the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights when looking at the fair trial rights under the South African constitution, as well as the right not to be detained without trial.

The constitution said that when interpreting the bill of rights, courts “must consider international law,” Mpofu said.

In his submissions filed on Friday, Mpofu said the Constitutional Court was bound by the provisions of covenant ratified by South Africa in 1998, and it was mandatory that the court consider it.

One of the covenant’s provisions was that an imprisoned person was entitled to challenge his imprisonment in court and that this must be considered without delay, he added.

The Constitutional Court has yet to make a decision on the Zuma case, whether or not to  free him from prison while he awaited this decision.

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