Prevention of Torture
Strategic Focus Area: The Prevention of Torture is one of the seven focus areas identified by the South African Human Rights Commission in order to effectively fulfill its mandate of promoting, protecting and monitoring the realisation of human rights in South Africa.
Torture is one of the most profound violations of human rights and dignity.The South African Human Rights Commission continues to receive complaints against the police and correctional services of unnecessary force and torture.
South Africa has established the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) and the Judicial Inspectorate for Correctional Services (JICS) to monitor and conduct investigations into the behaviour of the servicemen/women of the police and correctional services, respectively. The South African Human Rights Commission directly refers all complaints to these oversight bodies, but continues to monitor them.
The Human Rights Commission’s work on The Prevention of Torture
The work of the Commission on Prevention of Torture portfolio is informed by the Constitutional mandate of the Commission, relevant national legislation, and applicable international and regional instruments.
Section 11 Committees
Section 11 Committees are advisory boards comprised of experts from different disciplines and institutions, who advise the Commission on matters related to Prevention of Torture. The committee name derives from the section of the South African Human Rights Commission Act, No. 40 of 2013, and provide for the Commission to establish advisory committees that bring together experts on specific focus areas.
In 2015 the Commission has convened a Section 11 Committee on the Prevention of Torture; Human Rights and Law Enforcement; and Human Rights in Correctional Services, comprised of academics, civil society, and government departments.
Stemming from this Section 11 Committee meeting, the Commission signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the South African Police Service on human rights in law enforcement and the reduction of violence and torture by police officials.
After the end of apartheid, the South African police service’s focus was changed to highlight its new role in a human rights based approach to community policing. Unfortunately, violations of persons civil and political rights are still being perpetrated, albeit it on a smaller scale. The South African Human Rights Commission continues to receive complaints against the police and correctional services of unnecessary force and torture.
Places of detention can infringe on the civil and political rights of persons. In apartheid South African persons detained were subjected to torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment of persons detained.
Policing And Human Rights
Dialogue on Policing and Human Rights
In 2016 the Commission in partnership with the African Policing Civilian Oversight Forum (APCOF) and the SA Police Services (SAPS) hosted a Dialogue on Policing and Human Rights. The 2-day dialogue convened policing experts, government, oversight bodies, and civil society.
The SAHRC Dialogue on Policing and Human Rights came on the back of the recent report by the United Nations Human Rights Committee, which raised serious concerns about the state of policing in the country.
Lindela Repatriation Centre
In 2014 the Commission launched an investigation into violations of access to health for detainees at the Lindela Repatriation Centre. The Commission’s investigation was in response to a complaint from non-governmental organisations, Medecins Sans Frontiers, Section 27, Lawyers for Human Rights, People Against Suffering, Oppression and Poverty, raising concerns about access to, and quality of, health for non nationals detained at Lindela. As part of this investigation, the Commissions undertook a study together with the Medecins Sans Frontiers and the African Center for Migration and Society. LINDELA INVESTIGATIVE REPORT
International & Regional Conferences
The Commission participated in the review of South Africa’s report under the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in Geneva March 2016.
In 2012, the Commission, in partnership with the Committee for the Prevention of Torture in Africa (African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights), convened a Commemorative Seminar on the Robben Island Guidelines.
Torture is one of the most profound violations of human rights and dignity. In 2002, the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights adopted the Robben Island Guidelines, a first consolidated effort to prohibit and prevent torture in Africa.
The SAHRC seminar in 2012 sought to examine how the Robben Island Guidelines had been used (in the ten years since adoption) to improve national systems to prevent torture and other ill treatment, and to assess the challenges that remain in the fight against torture in Africa and to explore possible solutions.
Advocacy and public education
The Commission invited members of the media to the three day Regional Training Workshop on Prevention of Torture: Enhancing the Role of SADC National Human Rights Institutions in Combating Torture, in April 2013.
Domestic Legislation, International And Regional Frameworks on the Human Rights and Law Enforcement
At an International Level
South Africa has signed and ratified the United Nations Covenant of Civil and Political Rights and the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
Currently, South Africa has signed, but has to ratify the United Nations Optional Protocol for the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. This will enable South Africa to establish the National Preventative Mechanism, which is a monitoring and visiting programme for places of detention. The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development and the Commission are in advanced stages of discussions regarding the ratification and the assignment of the monitoring mechanism within the Commission.
At a Regional Level
Regionally, South Africa is a member of the African Union, and has signed the African Charter. Article 5 of the African Charter speaks to the prevention of torture in Africa.
In 2002, South Africa signed the Guidelines and Measures for the Prohibition and Prevention of Torture, Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in Africa, also referred to as the Robben Island Guidelines. 10 years later, South Africa signed the Johannesburg Declaration and Plan of Action, which aim to implement the Robben Island Guidelines.
Recently, the Commission made a submission to the African Unions Committee on Torture Prevention in Africa on the right to redress for victims of torture in Africa.
At a Domestic Level
Nationally, South Africa has criminalised the action of torture in the Preventing and Combating and Torture of Persons Act (13 of 2013).
- In August 2016 the Commission presented to the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Police
- On 28th & 29th April 2016 the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) in partnership with the African Policing Civilian Oversight Forum (APCOF) and the SA Police Services (SAPS) will, host a Dialogue on Policing and Human Rights
- The Commission participated in the review of South Africa’s report under the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in Geneva March 2016.
- The Commission hosted a three-day media Regional Training Workshop on Prevention of Torture: Enhancing the Role of SADC National Human Rights Institutions in Combating Torture April 2013.