Last week I wrote about the appalling record that Mogoeng Mogoeng, the South African constitutional court judge who has been nominated to become the country’s new chief justice, has on issues of gender violence, marital rape and homosexuality. Well, it gets worse.
As journalists and organizations dig further into Mogoeng’s history as a judge, they are uncovering more and more unsavory details. The latest public outrage revolves around statements and judgments he made during a number of appeal court cases involving the rape or attempted rape of children.
A report released by the Southern African Litigation Centre (SALC) highlights some of these instances:
• In 2004, Mogoeng reduced the jail term of a man convicted of raping a seven-year-old girl from life to 18 years, the legal minimum, without providing any compelling mitigating circumstances.
• In 2005, he reduced the sentence of a man convicted of attempting to rape a seven-year-old girl from five to three years. In mitigation, Mogoeng acknowledged that her vagina had been penetrated, but found that it was not clear whether this happened with the man’s finger or his penis, as her face had been covered by her dress and she could not see. In response to Mogoeng’s statement that “the complainant is seven years old and the injury she sustained is not serious,” the SALC report notes that “it is hard to see how an injury to a seven-year-old which results from sexual abuse … can ever be classified as ‘not serious’”.
• In 2007, while Mogoeng upheld the conviction of a man found guilty of raping a 14-year-old girl, he made the startling statement that “ can safely assume that [the accused] must have been mindful of [the victim's] tender age and was thus so careful as not to injure her private parts, except accidentally, when he penetrated her. That would explain why the child was neither sad nor crying when she returned from the shop, notwithstanding the rape.” Replying that “comments like this have no place in cases of child rape,” the SALC report charges that Mogoeng “fails to acknowledge that victims react to rape in different ways and that rape is not always a violent crime, especially in relation to children” and that he appears to view non-violent cases of rape as less serious.
The SALC report is one of many submissions objecting to the appointment of Mogoeng made to South Africa’s Judicial Services Commission (JSC). The JSC, which is the constitutional body charged with assessing and accepting or rejecting his appointment as the country’s new chief justice, interviewed Mogoeng in Cape Town on Saturday and Sunday.
Despite the numerous objections, legal insiders have suggested that his formal appointment was a foregone conclusion and on Sunday afternoon news sources reported that the JSC had voted in favor of Mogoeng after deliberating for several hours.
Andreas is a book shop manager and freelance writer in Cape Town, South Africa. Follow him on Twitter: @Andreas_Spath
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