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Dr Jan van Zyl Smit


Dr Jan van Zyl Smit joined the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law as a Research Fellow in 2013. Much of his work at the Centre has focused on the use of legal frameworks to foster and protect the independence of the judiciary. He is the author of The Appointment, Tenure and Removal of Judges under Commonwealth Principles: A Compendium and Analysis of Best Practice  and was involved in the development of the Cape Town Principles on the Role of Independent Commissions in the Selection and Appointment of Judges  and in consultations leading to the Commonwealth Secretariat Model Law on Judicial Service Commissions.


Dr Jan van Zyl Smit

Senior Research Fellow, Director of the Justice Systems and Rule of Law programme

+44 (0)20 7862 5167

Jan is particularly interested in judicial reform in the context of transitions to democracy. He is the Principal Investigator in a project on Reassessment and Removal of Judges in Constitutional Transitions , which will run until March 2020 and is funded by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council. He worked for the Judges and Magistrates Vetting Board in Kenya as a consultant between 2012 and 2016 and has also worked with the International Center for Transitional Justice on judicial reform issues in Tunisia. Other work for the Bingham Centre includes a study of how the UK civil service uses its legal manual, The Judge Over Your Shoulder, to improve decision-makers' awareness of rule of law and administrative justice principles, and the potential for similar programmes in developing countries.

Jan holds a DPhil in Law from the University of Oxford. His thesis focused on the UK Human Rights Act 1998 and its impact on statutory interpretation. Prior to joining the Bingham Centre, Jan taught constitutional law, administrative law and international human rights courses at Oxford Brookes University. Jan completed his first degree in Law at the University of Cape Town and was subsequently a law clerk at the Constitutional Court of South Africa.

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