5 September 2012

South Africa: Marikana - Tide Is Turning Against Police As Miners Lay Charge of Torture

Photo: Werner Beukes/SAPA
Police on standby at Lonmin's troubled Marikana mine days before clashes with mine workers left 34 dead and 78 injured.


Johannesburg — Charges may be laid against police after brutality was alleged by incarcerated miners. The miners, now released, claim to have been tortured by police, but torture as such is not a crime in South Africa - yet.

On Tuesday, 10 SAPS members today waited at the Brits Police Station for an identification parade over charges of assault against arrested Marikana protesters. The charges were brought by 10 of the Marikana miners who were among the 162 released that day after murder charges were withdrawn by the state.

Godfrey Gouwe, of the Friends of the Youth League, said, "We have 10 witnesses in Marikana," who had laid the charges, but that the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) failed to provide transport for the miners to come to the identity parade.

IPID's Moses Dlamini confirmed that 10 policemen had been called to appear in an identity parade, but that "for logistical reasons" it had been postponed to next week.

Dlamini said he could not speak about the charges, but "that they were part of the ongoing investigation."

Gouwe said he believed all the assault took place at the Bethanie Police Station. He said he had spoken with Intervention Unit policemen loitering inside the courtyard of the Brits police station who told him they had been told Tuesday to come for an identification parade. Gouwe said they had not been told anything further Tuesday and that he was, in fact, unsure if these policemen were indeed meant to participate in the identity parade.

IPID investigators on the scene did not want to speak about the matter.

Other released miners have also spoken of torture and beatings. The Daily Maverick is not clear if these officers are a security detail, or were meant to be part of the identity parade; but what we do know is that the tide is turning, and the miners previously charged with murder have laid their own charges against police for assault.

The reason they have laid charges of assault and not torture, which they say they suffered, is torture is not a crime in South Africa.

Bonita Meyersfeld, associate professor and director of the Centre for Applied Legal Studies at Wits, said "Torture' as a composite offence does not exist in South African criminal law yet - which is why the Torture Bill is currently before parliament and we're commenting on it.

But torture is a violation under international law and this binds South Africa.

"Torture is a crime under customary international law, which is incorporated into South African law by Section 232 of the Constitution (and also by the Implementation of the Rome Statute Act)," she said. "So if the police have committed torture - the crime may be called assault but, if the allegations are correct, South Africa will be liable for an internationally wrongful act under international law."

Of the identity parade of the cops, Meyersfeld added, "This should have happened the day after the killings and every day since. The delay is outrageous. Justice must not only be done; it must be seen to be done.

The absence of justice is staggering."

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