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SAHRC commemorates International Day in Support of Victims of Torture

Monday, 25 June 2012

The 26th of June marks the annual commemoration of the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. This day was declared by the United Nations General Assembly in 1997 with the aim of supporting efforts to eliminate torture and promoting the application of the International Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhumane or Degrading Treatment or punishment (CAT).

The South African Government subsequently ratified the Convention in 1998. Whilst our Constitution guarantees in section 12(e), the right to freedom from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, the South African Human Rights Commission is however concerned that there is currently no specific law criminalising torture in South Africa.

The Commission is pleased though that the long- awaited Prevention and Combating of Torture of Persons Bill was finally tabled before Parliament earlier this month.  The Bill seeks to give effect to South Africa’s international obligations under the CAT to criminalize the offence of torture and other offences associated with torture of persons and to prevent and combat the torture of persons within or across the borders of the Republic.
Consequently, the Commission urges Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Justice and Constitutional Development to expedite the processing of the Bill. The Commission notes with concern the absence of any provisions relating to victims rights, redress and compensation.  Furthermore, the Commission urges Parliament to exercise its due diligence to ensure that the Bill protects the rights of persons who have been subjected to acts of torture of cruel inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. 
The Commission further urges Government to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT).   This would oblige the country to establish a National Preventative Mechanism (NPM), system of regular visits to all places where persons are deprived of their liberty, which has been demonstrated as an effective tool to prevent torture.

Torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and punishment can never be justified.

As the world commemorates the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture Day, the Commission recommits itself to holding the South African Government accountable to ensuring that perpetrators of acts of torture and associated offences are prosecuted and that victims are provided with effective and prompt redress, compensation and rehabilitation. 


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