Johannesburg - South Africa has failed to protect the rights of its citizens, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Tuesday.
“South Africa's Constitution provides strong protection for human rights, and yet people are being attacked because of their sexual orientation or perceived refugee or migrant status,” HRW Southern Africa director Tiseke Kasambala said in a statement.
HRW reviewed human rights practices in more than 90 countries in its world report.
Kasambala said South Africa had not adequately responded to widespread violence, including rape and murder, against lesbians and transgender people.
Last year, police arrested scores of people for attacks in Gauteng and the Eastern Cape, but refused to acknowledge that these were motivated by xenophobia, he said. This was necessary if police strategies were to address the problem.
“To make matters worse, the government is supporting legislation that would curb the rights to freedom of information and expression,” Kasambala said.
He said the Protection of State Information Bill failed to address concerns about harsh sentences and penalties for possessing classified information.
“The government should amend the bill further to ensure that it conforms to South Africa's own Constitution, as well as international standards on freedom of information and expression.
“In particular, it should include a public interest defence for obtaining such information,” Kasambala said.