Amnesty International’s Report 2011 has flagged police torture, deaths in custody, extrajudicial killings and threats to the work of human rights defenders as matters of concern in South Africa.
With police brutality in the spotlight following the killing of Ficksburg community worker Andries Tatane and reports of violent raids on Joburg and Cape Town nightclubs, the rights body added its weight in its report, released yesterday, to the growing concern on the matter.
It cited Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD) figures for April 2009 to March last year, which recorded five direct complaints against the police of torture and 920 complaints of assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm, some of which were being investigated for evidence of torture. Seven of 294 deaths in custody were linked to torture and 90 others to “injuries sustained in custody”.
The ICD also investigated 24 complaints of rape by police officers.
Also of concern to Amnesty were proposed changes to the Criminal Procedures Act that would allow police to use deadly force against a suspect resisting or fleeing arrest, where they believe there is a risk of “future death” if the suspect escapes. This, it noted, allowed for the use of deadly force “in circumstances beyond those allowed by international human rights standards”.
The report also raised concerns over threats to freedom of expression and the work of human rights defenders.
It cited, among others, the trial of 12 supporters of housing rights movement Abahlali baseMjondolo on charges relating to violence in the Kennedy Road informal settlement in 2009 and the unlawful arrest of Sunday Times journalist Mzilikazi wa Afrika after his reports on an alleged hit squad linked to senior Limpopo provincial government members.
Also of concern were ANC proposals for a media appeals tribunal and the tabling of the “draconian” Protection of Information Bill.
Police ministry spokesman Zweli Mnisi said: “We condemn any police brutality on innocent civilians. Equally, we strongly condemn any killing of police officers by criminals.” - Cape Argus