The SA Human Rights Commission on Friday welcomed the verdict in the crimen injuria trial of four former University of the Free State students, known as the Reitz Four.

SAHRC spokesman Vincent Moaga said the commission took note of the sentences of R20 000 each or 12 months imprisonment by the Bloemfontein Regional Court.

Chief Magistrate Mziwonke Hinxa sentenced the men to a further six months imprisonment wholly suspended for five years on certain conditions.

RC Malherbe, Johnny Roberts, Schalk van der Merwe and Danie Grobler on Tuesday pleaded guilty to charges of crimen injuria for humiliating five black workers in an initiation-type ceremony in 2007, while living at the University's now closed Reitz men's residence.

The four young men filmed the "ceremony".

Moaga said the commission welcomed the fact that the accused have acknowledged and apologised for the wrongfulness of their actions.

He said the criminal trial have no bearing on the Equality Court proceedings that have been instituted by the commission on behalf of the complainants.

"While the State was obliged to prosecute the four accused, such action did not prevent the complainants, assisted by the commission, from seeking civil redress and appropriate relief in the Equality Court," said Moaga in a statement.

He said the sentencing of the criminal court would have no affect on the proceeding in the Equality Court.

The Christian Democratic Party (CDP) also welcomed the conclusion to the criminal procedures on the incident.

"The attention drawn by the incident probably caused much more damage to the country than the ill-considered act of the students," said CDP leader Theunis Botha.

He said the fines, despite the diminished grounds of guilt, should send out a message that the courts were sensitive to issues that could cause inter-racial friction.

"Government cronies stirring racial tension must take note," he said.

Botha said the party trusted that not only the four students, but the entire country, would emerge from the incident much wiser.

"We will also no longer hear inciting songs such as 'Kill the Boer, kill the farmer' or 'Shoot the Boers'," he said.

FF Plus Youth leader Jan van Niekerk said the sentencing of the students should be seen as the final chapter of the case.

Van Niekerk said it was a pity the matter could not be solved out of court.

"If the reconciliatory attitude of the University of the Free State's rector Jonathan Jansen at some stage followed by all parties the case would have been less damaging for the workers, the students, the UFS and South Africa."

Van Niekerk said the FF Plus was of the opinion that the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) in the Free State played a role in the "unforgiving" attitude that prevailed before the trial.

The youth leader said he hoped the public, the media, the UFS and the workers involved regarded the matter as closed.

"It would be regrettable if the civil case for R1-million against each student by the workers and the SAHRC would continue," he said. - Sapa