Racism and xenophobia, excessive use of force by police, torture and degrading punishment, and the persistent stigma of those living with HIV/Aids are just some of the human rights violations plaguing South Africa.
These factors have been raised by the United Nations (UN) Committee on Human Rights, which reviewed South Africa’s record for this first time this month after asking government for clarity on several issues. In making public its findings following the review, the UN yesterday highlighted various human rights issues in South Africa.
“The committee welcomes the submission of the initial report of South Africa and the information presented therein, and regrets that it is 14 years overdue,” it said in its findings.
The UN flagged concerns over Sudanese president Omar al Bashir’s departure from the country, despite a High Court ruling prohibiting him from doing so.
“The Committee notes the ruling of the North Gauteng High Court, which considered the authorities’ failure to detain Sudan President Omar al-Bashir in June 2015 pursuant to an International Criminal Court arrest warrant to be inconsistent with the Constitution, and expresses concern that President al-Bashir was authorised to leave the country in violation of an interim court order.”
It recommended the state party to continue its investigation “of the events surrounding the failure to comply with the order and take the necessary measures to ensure compliance with rulings of domestic courts.
Racism and Xenophobia
The commitee further expressed anxiety over the numerous manifestations of racism and xenophobia, including violent attacks against foreign nations, migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers, resulting in death, injuries, displacement and property destruction.
“There is further concerned about the inability of the authorities to prevent and address racist and xenophobic attacks and to hold perpetrators accountable.”
It asked the State party to redouble its efforts to prevent and eradicate such manifestations to protect all communities. Policing in this regard should also be improved, it said.
Also raised were the numerous reports of excessive and disproportionate use of force by law-enforcement officials in the context of public protests, which resulted in the loss of lives.
In this context, the committee was concerned about the “slow pace of the investigation into the Marikana incident, including with respect to the criminal responsibility of members of the South African Police Service and the potential liability of Lonmin”.
It recommended that the State to expedite the work of the police ministry and a panel of international experts in implementing recommendations of the Farlam Commission of Inquiry into the events at Marikana in 2012, when 34 striking miners were killed by police.
Gender-based and domestic violence remained a serious problem in South Africa and there remained a lack of disaggregated data on the phenomenon, it said in recommending that efforts to prevent such incidents were renewed.
Torture & Deaths in Custody
The Prevention and combatting of Torture of Persons Act does not provide for civil claims for redress of torture, said the committee.
“The State party should consider amending the Prevention and Combating of Torture of Persons Act with a view to including specific provisions relating to the right of civil redress and remedy for victims of torture.”