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SAHRC expresses concerns about reports of torture of persons in custody of the state and to urge for the ratification of OPCAT

Monday, 08 November 2010

The SA Human Rights Commission is urging the South African government to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT).

In addition to this, the Commission is urging the Department of Justice & Constitutional Development to fast track the Combating of Torture Bill which seeks to ensure that South Africa complies with its international obligations in terms of the UN Convention against Torture (CAT) which South Africa has signed and ratified by criminalizing and prohibiting acts of torture. Currently the act of torture is not a recognized statutory crime in South Africa.  Torture legislation is needed in order that the criminal justice system can deal more effectively with acts of torture.

The Commission is concerned about incidents of reports of suspects in police custody being tortured. Recently, a national daily newspaper reported of court proceedings wherein the police admitted in court that they acted illegally when they arrested, beaten, throttled, kicked and injured the private parts of a Port Elizabeth pastor. The police also admitted to have thrown him on the ground before forcing him into a mortuary freezer for 45 minutes.
Such incidents indicate the need for South Africa to ratify and implement the OPCAT. This would oblige South Africa to establish a national Preventative Mechanism (NPM), a system of regular visits to all places where persons are deprived of their liberty. The establishment of a NPM has been demonstrated as an effective tool to prevent torture.

In an attempt to further drive the process of ensuring that the country ratifies the OPCAT, the Commission in collaboration with the Association for the Prevention of Torture (APT) recently hosted a workshop on ‘Ratifying the OPCAT:  Exploring the Implications for South Africa’. The workshop included participants from various government departments such as, the Department of International Relations and Cooperation, Department of Home Affairs, Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, Department of Police and the Department of Correctional Services.

The workshop focused on discussing the international requirements for the establishment of a National Preventive Mechanism in South Africa; the sharing of experiences from other countries which have established NPMs; and discussing lessons learnt from these international experiences. By the end of the workshop there was general agreement that South Africa should ratify the OPCAT.                                                                    


For further enquiries please contact Vincent Moaga on 073 562 9866

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