Women Nobels criticise S.Africa chief justice pick

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A group of women Nobel laureates urged South African President Jacob Zuma not to appoint Mogoeng Mogoeng as chief justice of the Constitutional Court, criticising his record in rape cases.

Ireland's Mairead Maguire, American Jody Williams and Iran's Shirin Ebadi warned Mogoeng's appointment would undermine South Africa's commitment to achieving gender equality.

"We note with concern that President Jacob Zuma's nominee for chief justice, the highest judicial office in the country, has issued many rulings that undermine women's rights and are at odds with the values enshrined in the constitution," they said a statement.

"Many of his rulings have undermined the severity of the crime of rape and its consequences for victims and invoke dangerous myths about rape that often blame the victims themselves and excuse perpetrators of egregious crimes," they said.

Mogoeng, who is also a pastor, is Zuma's only nominee for the job. Last week he defended his conservative approach to gender crimes during a public interview and rejected claims that he was homophobic.

The laureates have joined forces with local women's groups to ask Zuma not to appoint Mogoeng.

South African rights groups have cited particular concern over three rape cases in which Mogoeng reduced sentences imposed by a trial court.

He has disputed the claims that he is insensitive to rape cases, saying he has also sentenced convicted rapists to long terms from 10 years to life.

South Africa has one of the world's highest incidences of rape, and is battling increased cases of violence against lesbians who are raped and killed.

Mogoeng has been nominated to succeed retired chief justice Sandile Ngcobo who last month turned down Zuma's appointment for a second term.

© 2011 AFP

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