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‘According to the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, the Service Charter for Victims of Crime in South Africa (also referred to as the Victims’ Charter) is an important instrument for promoting justice for victims of crime in South Africa. The Victims’ Charter is compliant with the spirit of the South African Constitution, 1996 (Act 108 of 1996) and the United Nations Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power, 1985 (GA/RES/40/34)’.

If you have been a victim of crime, you have the following rights as contained in the constitution and relevant legislation, in this week’s blog we bring you more rights that must be upheld when you interact with the criminal justice system at court or police station:

YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO RECEIVE INFORMATION:

 • ‘You have the right to be informed of your rights and how to exercise them’.

 • ‘You can, as part of this right, ask for explanations in your own language of anything you do not understand’.

• ‘You have the right to receive information and to be informed of all relevant services available to you by service providers’. 

• ‘You will be informed of your role in the case and of the approximate duration of the case. You can request information regarding court dates, witness fees and the witness protection programme’.

 • ‘You can request to be informed of the status of the case, whether or not the offender has been arrested, charged, granted bail, indicted, convicted or sentenced’.

• ‘You may request reasons for a decision that has been taken in your case on whether to prosecute or not’.

• ‘You are entitled to receive documents that the law entitles you to have access to’.

• ‘You can request to receive notification of proceedings which you may want to attend’.

• ‘You can request the prosecutor to notify your employer of any proceedings that necessitate your absence from work’.

YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO PROTECTION:

• ‘You have the right to be free from intimidation, harassment, fear, tampering, bribery, corruption and abuse. If you are a witness, you must report any such threats to the police or senior state prosecutor’.

 • ‘The police will, if you comply with certain requirements, apply for you to be placed in a witness protection programme’.

• ‘If you are placed in a witness protection programme, you will be protected, as far as possible, from all forms of undue influence, harassment or intimidation’.

• ‘This will ensure your safety as a witness and the availability of your testimony, and prevent you from withdrawing from giving evidence as a result of undue influence’.

• ‘This right includes that, in certain circumstances, the court may prohibit the publication of any information (including your identity), or it may order that the trial be held behind closed doors (in camera)’.

• ‘You can request Correctional Services to inform you if the offender has escaped or has been transferred’. 

We will bring you the rest of the rights (Part 3) in next week’s blog. For more information on your rights as a victim of crime you can go to https://www.justice.gov.za/VC/docs/vc/vc-eng.pdf and find the service charter for victims in the language of your choice.

Visit www.citizenjusticenetwork.org  to read more on our work with community paralegals and radio stations in under-reported communities to empower citizens with legal information that assists them with accessing justice.