/ 21 November 2009

SA moves to create ‘World Cup courts’

South Africa plans to create special courts dedicated to handling crimes committed during the Soccer World Cup, aiming to speed up the judicial process, especially for cases involving foreigners.

Government hopes the promise of swift justice will help stamp out crime during the event and ease worries of fans visiting one of the world’s most violent countries.

”The courts are here to speed the process. There is not going to be any leniency,” said justice department spokesperson Tlali Tlali.

”We’re going to deal with all cases that have to do with the tournament,” he said.

An average of 50 people die violently every day in South Africa, while 250 000 homes are burgled every year. The justice ministry is concerned that the influx of 450 000 tourists will bring with it a surge in crime.

”The experience from previous host countries has shown that the influx of foreign nationals in World Cups also potentially increases criminal activities,” the justice ministry said in a statement.

”Therefore, special measures do need to be put in place in order to process any criminal matters that may arise from big events such as the Fifa World Cup.”

If any foreigners are involved in crimes — either as victims or perpetrators — their cases will receive priority at the special courts.

”The scheme obviously hopes to see justice done to foreigners who are the victims of crime, whilst the foreigners are available in South Africa to give evidence,” said lawyer Peter Jordi, a professor at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg.

”This will also act as a disincentive to commit crimes against foreigners,” he added.

The scheme will cost about R1-million for 54 courts to operate in all nine host cities, 15 hours a day from May 28 to July 25.

Judges, lawyers, prosecutors and interpreters, as well as volunteers to help with administrative issues, will also receive special training for the courts.

South Africa has already used a similar system during school holidays to allow traffic offenders to settle their cases in just one day.

”The South African authorities are obviously aware the crime may be an issue for foreign visitors,” Jordi said. ”This scheme is another indication that the authorities will be harsh on those who commit crimes during the World Cup.”

Since President Jacob Zuma took office in May, the government has stepped up efforts to fight crime, with the deputy police minister last week telling police to ”shoot the bastards” when dealing with violent criminals.

The so-called ”shoot-to-kill” policy has sparked intense public debate following the shooting deaths of bystanders, including a three-year-old boy last week.

Jordi said the speed of the special courts could also limit the ability to follow up on any such cases of abuse.

”Speedy justice can be problematic because accused persons are not given an adequate opportunity to consider how best to defend themselves,” he said. – AFP