Member Type: Advocate (Door Member)
Admission to Society: 2003
BA LL.B (Natal), LL.M (Columbia)
Honours at Columbia Law School: Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar and Bretzfelder Constitutional Law Fellow
Areas of Practice:
Constitutional Law, Administrative Law, Municipal Law, Property Law and Public Interest Litigation.
Varney completed his articles in the commercial litigation department at Rushmere Noach in Port Elizabeth and then spent 5 years as an attorney with the Legal Resources Centre in Durban where he practiced human rights law and appeared in inquests and commissions of inquiry. He was a member of the Technical Sub-Committee on the Removal of Repressive and Discriminatory Legislation at South Africa’s Multi-Party Talks in 1993 and was a member of the Task Group appointed by the Transitional Executive Council (TEC) to investigate police hit squads; and served as the Director of the TEC’s Natal Policing Inspectorate which monitored poling during the 1994 elections. In the mid-1990s he was appointed by President Mandela to establish and oversee a special criminal investigation into organised political violence; and he assisted the Truth and Reconciliation Commission with its investigations. He was the head of the South African Reserve Bank’s Security Risk Division between 2000 and 2002. Varney was the chief investigator for the Sierra Leone Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2003.
As a senior program adviser with the International Centre for Transitional Justice he works on a broad range of transitional justice issues throughout Africa, Asia, the Balkans, Middle East and South America. He has assisted initiatives involving commissions of inquiry, truth commissions, investigations and prosecutions, reparations and reforms of the judicial and security sectors. He has consulted for the United Nations, foreign governments and other international organisations on questions related to international justice and public sector reforms.
Since joining the Johannesburg Bar, Varney has appeared in the superior courts of South Africa, commissions of inquiry, judicial inquests and the Advertising Standards Authority. His cases have dealt with presidential pardons, secrecy and information classification; gun control, defamation and prosecution policies. Other matters have included constitutional challenges to municipal tax and rates laws and various regulations, bylaws and ordinances.
Varney has published on national criminal justice issues, international justice, amnesty, commissions of inquiry, the relationship between war crime tribunals and truth commissions, institutional reforms, dangerous weapons, community security, and small arms control. He has held positions in several non-governmental organisations. Varney is a faculty member of the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights and is a member of the London based Guernica 37 International Justice Chambers.
Some of his cases include:
- Rodrigues v National Director of Public Prosecutions of South Africa and Others  3 All SA 962 (GJ); 2019 (2) SACR 251 (GJ)
- Minister of Safety and Security v South African Hunters and Game Conservation Association 2018 (2) SACR 164 (CC); 2018 (10) BCLR 1268 (CC)
- The re-opened inquest into the death of Ahmed Essop Timol (IQ01/2017)
- Jordaan and Others v Tshwane Metropolitan Municipality 2017 (6) SA 287 (CC)
- Magidiwana and Another v President of the Republic of South Africa and Others  1 All SA 76 (GNP)
- Justice Alliance of South Africa and Another v National Minister of Safety and Security and Others  2 All SA 15 (SCA)
- The Citizen 1978 (Pty) Ltd v McBride 2011 (4) SA 191 (CC)
- Albutt v Centre for the Study of Violence & Reconciliation 2010 (3) SA 293 (CC)
- Dickinson Holdings (Group) (Pty) Ltd v Du Plessis 2008 (4) SA 214 (N)
- Nkadimeng and Others v National Director of Public Prosecutions and Others (32709/07)  ZAGPHC 422
- Independent Newspapers (Pty) Ltd v Minister for Intelligence Services: In re Masetlha v President of the RSA 2008 (5) SA 31 (CC)
- Commission of Inquiry into the Mandate and Location of the Directorate of Special Operations (Khampepe Commission) (2006)
- Shoba v Officer Commanding, Temporary Police Camp, Wagendrift Dam; Maphanga v Officer Commanding, SAP Murder & Robbery Unit, Pietermaritzburg 1995 (4) SA 1 (A) (as instructing attorney).
- Tsenoli v State President of the Republic of South Africa 1992 (3) SA 37 (D) (as instructing attorney).
- Commission of Inquiry Regarding the Prevention of Public Violence and Intimidation (Goldstone Commission) 1991 – 1994 (Hearings into the KwaZulu Police and Mooi River violence).
- Detective Sergeant Joseph Kabanyane & Others v Minister of KwaZulu Police 508/1990 (D&CLD) (as instructing attorney).