Daily Maverick (Johannesburg)

1 June 2014

South Africa: St Albans Prison Scandal - SA Ignores UNHRC and Risks International Embarrassment

analysis

Nine years after a horrifying episode of indiscriminate mass-beatings, torture and violent attacks imposed on St Albans prison inmates by warders and other State officials, none of the implicated warders have been either charged, or dismissed. So, last week Port Elizabeth human rights lawyer, Egon Oswald, wrote to the newly-appointed Minister of Justice and Correctional Services requesting "motivated reasons" why disciplinary proceedings against the warders had been withdrawn.

Oswald's letter to Minister Michael Masutha, copied to Amnesty International and the UN Human Rights Committee (UNHRC), was written just as a civil claim for damages instituted against the Minister by the first four of 231 torture-survivors was getting underway in the PE High Court. Acting on behalf of the plaintiffs, Oswald informed Minister Masutha that if he didn't reply in ten days, he would have "no choice but to approach the High Court on review and to initiate an international campaign to hold SA accountable to its obligations in international law".

According to Oswald, "international laws against torture are under-pinned by moral and ethical imperatives. SA has obligations in terms of being a signatory to international human rights instruments like the UN Convention against Torture and other Cruel,...

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