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Jan van Zyl Smit

Associate Senior Research Fellow, British Institute of International and Comparative Law

Dr Jan van Zyl Smit joined the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law as a Research Fellow in June 2013. Much of his work at the Centre has focused on the use of legal frameworks and processes to foster 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.

Jan is particularly interested in judicial reform in the context of political transitions. He has worked for the Judges and Magistrates Vetting Board in Kenya as a consultant and has advised the Truth and Dignity Commission in Tunisia on vetting and institutional reform. He has participated in consultations and workshops organised by the Commonwealth Secretariat, the International Commission of Jurists, International IDEA, the International Development Law Organisation and the International Center for Transitional Justice.

Jan is also interested in constitutional and governance reforms. He is currently assisting with the development of guide to principles of administrative justice for Kenyan civil servants, based on a study of the UK's experience with the civil service guide, The Judge Over Your Shoulder. He holds a DPhil in Law from the University of Oxford, and has published on the UK Human Rights Act 1998 and its impact on the interpretation of legislation. Prior to joining the Bingham Centre, Jan taught constitutional law, administrative law and international human rights courses at Oxford Brookes University. Before this, he served for a short period as a researcher to the Committee of Experts which drafted the 2010 Constitution of Kenya. 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.


  • –present
    Associate Senior Research Fellow, British Institute of International and Comparative Law (BIICL)