South African star athlete Caster Semenya set to take on the government of Switzerland at the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights, in what has been described as yet another David vs Goliath battle, the Olympian and her management team have pleaded with South Africans to step in and help with funds to fight this colossal battle.
According to her legal representative, Greg Knott, the team has spent more than R30 million on legal and other fees that the team has had to source to ensure that the case continues to the highest level.
“Even though it is difficult to quantify the exact figures because some of the work has been done pro bono, since we started back in 2019, we have spent more than R30 million fighting this matter in the courts and everywhere else,” Knott added Semenya, who has not competed internationally since her ban, says she has dedicated her time to using her voice for change and to advance the cause of other young women who are facing similar challenges as her.
“As you know my case will commence at the European Court. They have appealed, but we are going there in May. We lack funds and we have a lot of expenses that we have to cover and every cent that you are able to contribute makes a difference.
“My legal team is here with me and they will tell you what is needed. Your help in this regard, is highly appreciated. As you know, I am a woman of less words. I believe actions speak louder than words.
“My work now is just to advocate for those who are silenced. I am their word when they can’t speak. If people come on board and we are able to help those affected, that would be fulfilling for me,” Semenya said.
In May, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights is set to hear the case referred by the Swiss government against the July 2023 judgment of the European Court of Human Rights which ruled that the World Athletics is bound by international law and may not discriminate against anyone without compelling reasons.
This was preceded by a decision by World Athletics which prevented Semenya from participating in international competitions.
The European high court is expected to rule on whether the athlete can stop taking drugs that reduce her testosterone level.
Speaking on behalf of the Commission for Gender Equality, Dr Nthabiseng Moleko called on the South African government to relook at some of its relationships with world structures that do not reflect the values espoused by South Africa.
“Our country and our government must start to relook at some of the participation as signatories to some of these world bodies... As the custodian and institution that promotes human dignity we are saying, we cannot have our institutions being run from outside of us and we must then ask ourselves: would this matter have come this far had it been an athlete from another country,” she said.
Even though the court found that Semenya had not been afforded sufficient institutional and procedural safeguards in Switzerland to allow her to have her complaints examined effectively, and that the domestic remedies available to her could not be considered effective in the circumstances of the present case, Switzerland appealed the matter, which has now proceeded to the Grand Chamber whose verdict is final and cannot be appealed.