Press Release by the Foundation for Human Rights and Webber Wentzel
12 March 2021
The Postponement of Closing Arguments in the re-opened Aggett Inquest
The re-opened inquest into the death of Dr Neil Aggett concluded on 15 February 2021 before Honorable Judge Makume presiding at the Johannesburg High Court. The closing arguments were initially scheduled to take place on 18 March 2021. However, due to the failure of the transcription services to supply the transcripts of the court proceedings timeously, Webber Wentzel Pro Bono Department acting for the Aggett family had to request Judge Makume to postpone the closing arguments until a full set of the 2021 transcripts is provided.
The heads of argument essentially put forward each party’s case, based on the evidence presented at the inquest, to assist the court in making its finding. As pointed out by Webber Wentzel attorneys in their letter to Judge Makume, “the former Security Branch Officers who testified this year either did not put up affidavits or provided very short affidavits. A record of their oral evidence is critical for purposes of this inquest.” A date will be set for closing argument approximately 2 weeks after the transcripts are supplied to the parties.
The inquest into the death of Dr Neil Aggett resumed on 18 January 2021 and was held virtually due to the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. The part-heard inquest ran for five weeks in January and February 2020 but had to be postponed due the illness of the Presiding Judge. The initial resumption date scheduled for 1 June 2020, also had to be postponed due to COVID-19 restrictions and the lockdown. The record of the 2020 inquest proceedings is available online.
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Foundation for Human Rights
The Foundation for Human Rights (FHR) is a grant making institution supporting civil society organizations in South Africa and the region that implement programmes which promote and protect human rights. The Foundation’s mission is to address the historical legacy of apartheid, to promote and advance transformation in South Africa and to build a human rights culture using the Constitution as a tool. Over the last two decades FHR has played a major role in promoting the rights of victims of apartheid crimes through supporting the recommendations of the TRC including justice and accountability for past crimes, reparations and access to the TRC archives.
Webber Wentzel Pro-Bono Department
Webber Wentzel Pro-Bono Department provides free legal services to poor and vulnerable members of the public through its pro bono legal practice group, which was founded by senior attorney and human rights activist, Moray Hathorn. Moray Hathorn has served as attorney in several high-profile human rights cases including the reopened inquests into the murder of Ahmed Timol and Dr Neil Aggett. The Pro Bono Department is headed up by Odette Geldenhuys.