World Video | Defence | Foreign Affairs | Natural Events | Trade | NZ in World News | NZ National News Video | NZ Regional News | Search


South Africa: Preserving Gains For Human Rights

South Africa: Preserving The Gains For Human Rights In The "War Against Crime"

* News Release Issued by the International Secretariat of Amnesty International *

6 December 2000 AFR 53/005/2000 229/00

Shortly before International Human Rights Day,10 December, Amnesty International is raising with the South African Government its concerns about the proposed Anti-Terrorism Bill. "If the law in its present form is enacted, it will place South Africa in breach of its international and regional obligations and may lead to human rights violations", the organization said. It will grant the authorities "what are in effect emergency powers, without any of the safeguards provided for under national and international law when there is a formal declaration of a state of emergency."

In a report released today by Amnesty International, based on a memorandum submitted to the South African Law Commission, the organization expressed concern that certain provisions in the draft law, particularly those allowing for detention without charge or trial, carry a risk of a repetition of part of South Africa's past pattern of human rights violations.

Amnesty International shares the Law Commission's concern that "South Africa has a terrible history of abuse in detention" in the apartheid era and that this history has to be kept in view in considering any "measures to be implemented in combating terrorism".

In its memorandum the organization emphasised that the likelihood of repetition is increased by the reality that torture still occurs in post-apartheid South Africa, primarily in the context of criminal investigation.

Amnesty International acknowledges that the present South African Government is faced with a very serious security situation, primarily in the Western Cape province where the government has accused an anti-crime vigilante organization, PAGAD (People against Gangsterism and Drugs), of responsibility for a wave of " urban terror", including bombings and the targeted killings of officials involved in investigating or hearing cases against alleged PAGAD members.

While Amnesty International condemns deliberate and arbitrary killings or threats of violence by armed opposition groups, the solution to the problems in the Western Cape should not involve passing new laws which would seriously affect fundamental human rights guaranteed under South Africa's own Constitution and the international human rights treaties ratified by South Africa, including most recently the Rome Treaty for the International Criminal Court.

The Law Commission itself noted with concern that the government has not provided it with " compelling evidence of justification" for the measures for the detention of persons for interrogation, nor why " conventional policing methods are inadequate" to address the security problems. Civil society organizations in South Africa have also argued that practical measures to strengthen the skills, resources and capacity of law enforcement agencies would be a more appropriate response to the violence in the Western Cape.

Among other detailed comments on the provisions in the draft law, Amnesty International criticized the definition of a "terrorist act" as being too widely drawn, leaving open the possibility of the use of the law against non-violent protest activities. The sweeping "stop and search" powers, contain the risk of arbitrary or discriminatory searches.

The provision allowing for detention without charge establishes grounds so widely phrased that it could encompass journalists, lawyers or others with privileged information. The grounds for extension of the detention period include the failure of the detainee to answer questions "satisfactorily", and police requests for more time to enable them to complete their investigations.

"The provisions restricting access to the detainee risk legitimising incommunicado detention, which can increase the danger of torture, ill-treatment and disappearances," said Amnesty International.

Amnesty International urges President Thabo Mbeki's Government to ensure that any legislative initiatives taken to address persistent high levels of criminal violence in the Western Cape or other parts of the country preserve the gains made for human rights since the political transition in 1994, and are consistent with South Africa's regional and international human rights obligations.

You may repost this message onto other sources provided the main text is not altered in any way and both the header crediting Amnesty International and this footer remain intact. Only the list subscription message may be removed.

© Scoop Media

World Headlines


Gordon Campbell: Is This Guy The World’s Most Dangerous Thirtysomething?

Saudi Arabia has long been regarded as a pillar of stability in the Middle East, and is the essential caterer to the West’s fossil fuel needs. It is also the country that gave us Osama Bin Laden, al Qaeda, and 15 of the 19 terrorists who carried out the 9/11 attacks... More>>


Non-Binding Postal Vote: Australia Says Yes To Same Sex Marriage

Binoy Kampmark: Out of 150 federal seats, 133 registered affirmative totals in returning their response to the question “Should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?”. More>>


Bonn Climate Change Conference: Protecting Health In Small Island States

The vision is that, by 2030, all Small Island Developing States will have health systems that are resilient to climate change and countries around the world will be reducing their carbon emissions both to protect the most vulnerable from climate risks and deliver large health benefits in carbon-emitting countries. More>>


Camp Shut Down: Refugees Must Be Rescued From Manus

On 31st October 2017, the detention centre on Manus Island in which the Australian Government has been holding more than 700 refugees was closed, leaving those living there in a desperate situation. More>>



Rohingya Muslims Massacred: Restrictions On Aid Put 1000s At Risk

Amnesty: The Myanmar authorities’ restrictions on international aid in Rakhine state is putting tens of thousands of lives at risk in a region where mainly Rohingya people are already suffering horrific abuses from a disproportionate military campaign. More>>


  • Pacific.Scoop
  • Cafe Pacific
  • PMC