Strengthening prosecutorial accountability in South Africa


As gatekeepers to the criminal justice system, prosecutors are its most powerful officials. Prosecutors’ considerable discretion – about whom to charge and for which crimes – affects the lives and fate of thousands of criminal suspects, and the safety and security of all citizens.

Yet, in South Africa, no dedicated oversight and accountability mechanism scrutinises the activities of the country’s prosecutors. Constructive oversight can assist the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to enhance both its performance and public confidence in its work.

The paper reviews a number of prosecutorial accountability mechanisms drawing on real-world examples. These mechanisms are assessed and their applicability to the South African context is critically explored.

About the author

Martin Schönteich directs the National Criminal Justice Reform Programme of the Open Society Justice Initiative. He previously worked as a senior researcher for the Institute for Security Studies’ Crime and Justice Programme, and as a public prosecutor for the South African Department of Justice. He is an advocate of the High Court of South Africa. He is presently enrolled at the City University of New York as a doctoral student in criminal justice.

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