Lawyers want access to arms deal docs

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iol news pic Seriti commission 1 INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS Judges Musi and Seriti preside over the Arms Procurement Commission at the Sammy Marks Conference Centre in Pretoria. File picture: Chris Collingridge

Pretoria - Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) needs access to key evidence in the Seriti Commission of Inquiry to help the commission, it said on Wednesday.

“It is important to note that these documents are vital in enabling us to prepare properly to give our evidence during phase II of the hearings, expected to begin in July,” LHR said in a statement.

“The commission should be leading the struggle for openness and transparency to ensure it fulfils its mandate and get to the bottom of the controversial arms deal, something it has so far failed to do, undermining the public's right to know the truth.”

It said requests for documents from the commission had been ignored for the past 17 months. LHR said the commission should obtain, examine and make the documents available.

“It is not enough to rely exclusively on interested parties to produce the documents they wish the commission to consider,” it said.

“This leads to fundamental unfairness and may prevent the truth from emerging if these documents are not produced and made available to us ahead of our evidence and cross-examination.”

Outstanding documents include some held by the trade and industry department, minutes of meetings of committees, and reports by law enforcement agencies.

Commission spokesman William Baloyi said commission chairman, judge Willie Seriti, told LHR on June 12 to compile a list of outstanding documents.

“The commission received the list today. An internal team is going to go through that list and we will respond accordingly,” Baloyi said.

He said a list of witnesses for the second phase of the commission would be sent to the media before the weekend with the next start date.

LHR said it handed in the full list on Tuesday.

President Jacob Zuma appointed the commission in 2011 to investigate alleged corruption in the multi-billion rand deal.

Government acquired, among other hardware, 26 Gripen fighter aircraft and 24 Hawk lead-in fighter trainer aircraft for the air force, and frigates and submarines for the navy.

Sapa



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