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Moving the Torture Prevention Agenda Forward in South Africa


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Torture Prevention in South AfricaThe APT returned to South Africa from 19 to 22 October in the framework of its five year programme of work in the country. APT, in a strategic partnership with the South Africa Human Rights Commission, is part of the Section 5 Committee, which includes various civil society organisations. This group undertakes to promote the ratification and implementation of OPCAT, the criminalisation of torture as well as other initiatives related to the prevention of torture and ill treatment.

 

Date:
19 - 22 October 2009
Place:
South Africa
Purpose:
General Objective:
To reinvigorate and strengthen the torture prevention agenda in South Africa.

Specific Objectives:
  • To advocate for the ratification and implementation of OPCAT in South Africa.
  • To assess headway and adopt an effective plan of action for the adoption of a Bill on torture.
  • To assess the potential of renewed campaigning following election earlier in 2009.
  • To meet with key decision makers at the governmental level to push the prevention agenda forward.
Partners:
The members of the Section 5 Committee are:
Activities:

The APT returned to South Africa from 19 to 22 October in the framework of its five year (2006-2010) programme of work in the country (see briefing note for further background information). The APT has been closely involved in both regional and national torture prevention projects in South Africa at least since the early 2000s. The country is home to the highly symbolic Robben Island which gave its name to the Africa Commission on Human Peoples' Rights Robben Island Guidelines for the prohibition and prevention of torture in Africa.

In 2007, the APT entered into a strategic partnership with the South Africa Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) and agreed to become part of a multi stakeholder Committee which included various civil society organisations as well as the SAHRC and APT. This group, called the Section 5 Committee on torture undertakes to promote the ratification and implementation of OPCAT, the criminalisation of torture (particularly through the passing of a Bill on torture) as well as other initiatives related to the prevention of torture and ill treatment.

On 19 October, the SAHRC and the APT facilitated a meeting of the Section 5 Committee during which the group undertook a strategic review of achievements and challenges (SWOT analysis). Despite notable achievements, South Africa has not yet ratified OPCAT. The Draft Torture Bill is being circulated and considered by relevant governmental departments.

Furthermore, the APT delegation was able to meet with various representatives from Government and Parliament, which helped in identifying blockades as well as lobbying for OPCAT and criminalisation of torture.

Outcome:
  • Identification of challenges and blockades regarding ratification of OPCAT and criminalisation of torture.
  • Relevant governmental and parliamentary departments were made aware of South Africa's obligations with regards to criminalisation and prevention of torture (South Africa is due to present its second report to the UN Committee on Torture).
  • It is expected that the Section 5 Committee will now meet on a more regular basis, and that substantial advocacy work should result in noticeable advances in the area of torture prevention in South Africa.
Next Steps:
  • Section 5 Committee plan of action 2010.
  • Advocacy letters to key national decision makers.
  • Potential national NPM workshop in early 2010.
Documents:
Briefing Note
Contact Persons:

Vincent Ploton, APT Fundraising Officer

Adam Fletcher, APT Legal Adviser

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