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Staff Profile

Professor Lilian Chenwi

QualificationsLLB, LLM, LLD, dip IPHU
Phone 0117178465
Organisational Unit School of Law

International human rights law, public international law, socio-economic rights, international criminal law, housing rights, death penalty from a human rights perspective

L ilian joined the Wits School of Law as an Associate Professor in June 2011. Prior to joining Wits, she served as the head of, and a senior researcher in, the Socio-Economic Rights Project of the Community Law Centre, University of the Western Cape.

In 2013, she was among the Mail & Guardian 200 young South Africans or permanent residents aged 35 and under who are doing extraordinary things. In 2012, she was co-recipient of the Vera Chirwa Human Rights Award, for epitomising a true human rights lawyer, in recognition of achievements subsequent to obtaining the degree LLM (Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa) at the Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria; in particular for her contribution to the development of economic, social and cultural rights. In the same year, she was voted amongst the Top 35 Under 35 Young African Leaders in International Affairs by the YPIA (Young People in International Affairs). She has participated in processes that led to the adoption of two key international documents - the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, a milestone international treaty in the protection of human rights; and the Maastricht Principles on Extraterritorial Obligations of States in the area of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. She is also a member of key international networks focusing on human rights issues.

Public International Law; Advanced International Law; International Criminal Law; Social Justice and Human Rights


Articles in Peer Reviewed Journals

  • 2015. Implementation of Housing Rights in South Africa: Approaches and strategies’ 24 Journal of Law and Social Policy 68-87
  • 2014. Universal jurisdiction and South Africa's perspective on the investigation of international crimes, 1 SALJ 27-45
  • 2013. Statelessness and Rights: Protecting the Rights of Nubian Children in Kenya through the African Children’s Committee, (with E Fokala), 6 African Journal of Legal Studies 357–373
  • 2013. Unpacking “progressive realisation”, its relation to resources, minimum core and reasonableness, and some methodological considerations for assessing compliance, 46(3) De Jure 742-769.
  • 2013. The right to adequate housing in the African regional human rights system: Convergence or divergence between the African Commission and South African approaches, 17 Law, Democracy and Development 342-362.
  • 2012. Revisiting South Africa’s reporting obligations under human rights treaties and peer review mechanisms: Baby strides grinding to a halt?, 37 South African Yearbook of International Law 187-216.
  • 2012. Legislative and judicial responses to informal settlements in South Africa: A silver bullet?, 23(3) Stellenbosch Law Review 540-563.
  • 2011. An appraisal of international law mechanisms for litigating socio-economic rights, with a particular focus on the OP-ICESCR and the African Commission and Court, 22(3) Stellenbosch Law Review 683-705.
  • 2011. Using international human rights law to promote constitutional rights: The (potential) role of the South African parliament, 15 Law Democracy and Development 311-338.
  • 2011. ‘Meaningful engagement’ in the realisation of socio-economic rights: The South African experience, 26 SA Public Law 128-156.
  • 2011. Socio-economic gains and losses: The South African Constitutional Court and social change, 41(3) Social Change 427-444.
  • 2009. A new approach to remedies in socio-economic rights adjudication: Occupiers of 51 Olivia Road and Others v City of Johannesburg and Others, 2 Constitutional Court Review 371-393.
  • 2009. ‘A woman’s home is her castle?’ – Poor women and housing inadequacy in South Africa, (with K McLean), 25 South African Journal on Human Rights 517-545.
  • 2009. Correcting the historical asymmetry between rights: The Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 9 (1) African Human Rights Law Journal 23-52.
  • 2008. Putting Flesh on the Skeleton: South African Judicial Enforcement of the Right to Adequate Housing of Those Subject to Evictions, 1 Human Rights Law Review 105-137.
  • 2007. Taking Those with Special Housing Needs from the Doldrums of Neglect: A Call for a Comprehensive and Coherent Policy on Special Needs Housing, 11(2) Law, Democracy and Development 1-18.
  • 2006. Advancing the Right to Adequate Housing of Desperately Poor People: City of Johannesburg v Rand Properties (Pty) Ltd and Others, 14(1) Human Rights Brief 13-16.
  • 2006. Fair Trial Rights and Their Relation to the Death Penalty in Africa, 55 International and Comparative Law Quarterly 609-634.
  • 2005. Initiating Constructive Debate: A Critical Reflection on the Death Penalty in Africa, 38(3) Comparative and International Law Journal of Southern Africa 474-491.
  • 2005. Breaking New Ground: The Need for a Protocol to the African Charter on the Abolition of the Death Penalty, 5 African Human Rights Law Journal 89-104.



  • 2008. Evictions in South Africa: Relevant International and National Standards Cape Town: Community Law Centre.
  • 2007. Towards the Abolition of the Death Penalty in Africa: A Human Rights Perspective Pretoria University Law Press.


Chapters in Books

  • 2015: International human rights law in South Africa in Erika de Wet, Holger Hestermeyer & Rüdiger Wolfrum (eds) The implementation of international law in Germany and South Africa (2015) pp. 339-373 (Pretoria University Law Press)
  • 2015. Democratizing the socio-economic rights enforcement process in García, K Klare, LA Williams (eds.) Social and Economic Rights in Theory and Practice: Critical Inquiries (2015) pp. 178-196 (Routledge)
  • 2012. Enforcing the right to adequate housing: Learning from the South Africa experience in S Rajkhowa & S Deka (eds) Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Vol 1, Guwahati: EBH Publishers (India), 155-191.
  • 2012. An Appraisal of International Law Mechanisms for Litigating Socio-Economic Rights, with a Particular Focus on the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the African Commission and Court, in S Liebenberg & G Quinot (eds) Law and Poverty: Perspectives from South Africa and Beyond, Cape Town: Juta
  • 2011. A woman’s home is her castle? – Poor women and housing inadequacy in South Africa, (with K McLean), in B Goldblatt & K McLean (eds) Women’s Social and Economic Rights. Cape Town: Juta, 128-155.
  • 2008. Taking the Death Penalty Debate Further: The African Commission on Human and People's Rights, in J Yorke (ed.) Against the Death Penalty: International Initiatives and Implications Ashgate Publishing Ltd., 75-99 (Chapter also published in Spanish in 2009).
  • 2007. Housing Rights, in S Khoza (ed.) Socio-Economic Rights in South Africa: A resource book Cape Town: Community Law Centre, 229-270


(Short) Articles and writings in Other Journals

  • 2011. ‘The relevance of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights for older persons in South Africa, 12(1) ESR Review 9-12.
  • 2010. African Commission reaffirms protection of socio-economic rights in the African Charter, 11(2) ESR Review 10-12.
  • 2010. Old age pension decision: Out of sync with legal developments, (with S Heleba), 11(1) ESR Review 12-13.
  • 2010. Government’s obligation to unlawful occupiers and private landowners, 11(1) ESR Review 9-11.
  • 2010. Promoting socio-economic rights in South Africa through the ratification and implementation of the ICESCR and its Optional Protocol, (with R Hardowar), 11(1) ESR Review 3-6.
  • 2009. Slums Act unconstitutional, 10(4) ESR Review 9-12.
  • 2009. Sacrificial lambs’ in the quest to eradicate informal settlements: The plight of Joe Slovo residents, (with K Tissington), 10(3) ESR Review 18-24.
  • 2009. Some thoughts on litigating the right to food in South Africa: Possibilities and challenges, (with T Serie), 10(3) ESR Review 9-13.
  • 2009. Enforcing housing rights: How far can the courts go?, 10(2) ESR Review 17-19.
  • 2009. Housing rights of “slum” dwellers at stake, 10(1) ESR Review 25-28.
  • 2009. Litigating socio-economic rights through amicus briefs: Challenges and strategies, 10(1) ESR Review 7-10.
  • 2008, National strategies for realising the right to food, ESR Review 9(4) 17-18.
  • 2008. Upgrading of informal settlements and the rights of the poor: The case of Joe Slovo, 9 (3) ESR Review 13-18.
  • 2008. Delineating the content of the right to social security, 9 (3) ESR Review 23-28.
  • 2008. Towards the adoption of the International Complaints Mechanism for Enforcing Socio-Economic Rights under the ICESCR, 9 (2) ESR Review 20-22.
  • 2008. Recommendations of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing following his Mission to South Africa, 9 (2) ESR Review 24-25.
  • 2008. The Constitutional Protection of Those Facing Eviction from “Bad Buildings”, (with S Liebenberg), 9 (1) ESR Review 12-17.
  • 2008. The Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights 9 (1) ESR Review 21.
  • 2008. South Africa’s Commitment to Realising Socio-Economic Rights’, (with S Khoza and S Heleba), 9 (1) ESR Review 17-19.
  • 2007. First Reading of the Draft Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights’ (2007) 8 (4) ESR Review 22-27.
  • 2007. The Right to Have Access to Adequate Housing’, 8 (2) ESR Review 21-25.
  • 2007. Giving Effect to the Right to Adequate Housing: The Need for a Coherent (National) Policy on Special Needs Housing, 7(4) ESR Review 10-14.
  • 2006. Towards an Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights’, with C Mbazira, in CIDESC rights_interact, December, Newsletter No 3.
  • 2006. The Draft Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights’, (with C Mbazira), 7(1) ESR Review 9-12.
  • 2005, Seeking Security – Towards a New Vision for Tenure Relations in Farming Areas, 6(4) ESR Review 18-20.
  • 2005. Book Review: Socio-Economic Rights in South Africa, 6(3) ESR Review 19-20.
  • 2005. What Future for the Death Penalty in Africa? An Appraisal of the Case of Interights et al (on behalf of Mariette Sonjaleen Bosch) v Botswana, 12 Amicus Journal 13.
  • 2005. The African Commission and the Death Penalty,  11 Amicus Journal 13.


Plain Language Books

  • 2010. Engaging meaningfully with government on socio-economic rights: A focus on the right to housing, (with K Tissington), Cape Town: Community Law Centre.
  • 2009. Claiming economic, social and cultural rights at the international level, Cape Town: Community Law Centre.
  • 2006. Accessing Housing in the Western Cape: A Guide for Women Vulnerable to Gender-Based Violence and HIV/AIDS, and for Organisations Providing Services to Them, Cape Town: Community Law Centre.


Published Research Reports

  • 2007. The Role of Informal Community Structures in Ensuring Women’s Right to Have Access to Adequate Housing in Langa, Manenberg and Mfuleni, (with H Combrinck), Cape Town: Community Law Centre.