SAHRC provides human rights recommendations on DNA Bill to Parliament's Committee on Security and Constitutional DevelopmentFor comments email firstname.lastname@example.org [Back]
09th October 2013
Attention: Editors and Reporters
The South African Human Rights Commission presented a submission to Parliament’s Select Committee on Security and Constitutional Development after it received a request from the Committee to present a human rights perspective to the Criminal Law (Forensic Procedures) Amendment Bill also known as the ‘DNA’ Bill. Earlier this year, the Commission provided a submission on the original draft of the Bill to the Portfolio Committee on Police.
The Bill seeks to establish a national DNA database and will regulate the collection and retention of DNA samples. Commissioner Danny Titus led the SAHRC delegation and noted the inclusion of several of the initial SAHRC recommendations in the re-drafted version of the Bill. The SAHRC’s second submission provides a number of recommendations to the Committee to strengthen the Bill, specifically proposing the inclusion of provisions relating to children and persons with disabilities.
The SAHRC also took concern with the composition of the National Forensic Oversight and Ethics Board which will act as a complaints-handling body and monitor the implementation of the Bill. The draft legislation provides for the Commission to serve as a permanent member of the Board. However, the SAHRC reiterated that this infringes on the independence of the Commission as a Chapter 9 constitutional body and may result in conflict of interest should complaints be lodged with the SAHRC against the Oversight and Ethics Board.
In discussions on the submission, members mentioned the successes and failures of comparative jurisdictions which have relied on advanced DNA evidence and questioned whether international human rights norms and standards have applicability in South Africa.
“There comes a time in human rights protection and monitoring, where countries have to sit together and look at how best to protect human rights through drawing on best practice and examples from one another,” Commissioner Titus told the Committee. He further clarified the role of South Africa’s international obligations and reminded members of the constitutional imperative that, ‘international law must be considered when interpreting human rights’.
Commissioner Titus recognised the advancements of DNA evidence in the fight against crime and requested parliamentarians to be ‘mindful of human rights’ in their further considerations on the Bill.
The Select Committee welcomed the inputs by the Commission and acknowledged that further discussion on the issue is required.
The SA Human Rights Commission
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