Wits Justice Project Symposium on Torture

The Wits Justice Project will host a symposium in light of the signing into law of the Prevention and Combating of Torture of Persons Bill, last year.

Training, sensitization and human rights education on the definitions and penalties associated with torture is crucial at this stage of South Africa’s history.

 The objective is to facilitate high-level discussions and reflections on:

a)      The first year of the “torture bill”: different perspectives from the authorities, civil society and experts. To include topics on:

  • achievements of the first year
  • the dissemination and training that is needed, for all actors and officials in the criminal justice system
  • awareness raising for the public
  • needed policy environment

b)      The necessary next steps needed for the ratification of the optional protocol of the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT) and implementation of a national preventative mechanism.

When: 28 and 29 August 2014

Venue: Chalsty Centre, Braamfontein Campus West

RSVP by July 1, 2014 to Nooshin Erfani-Ghadimi of the Wits Justice Project on nooshin.erfani-ghadimi@wits.ac.za.

Torture is illegal in South Africa

by Palesa Monaleng

On 30th July 2013 the Prevention and Combating of Torture of Persons Act was signed into law by the president of South Africa. Finally, torture is a crime in South Africa. According to the act, “torture means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person” for purposes including obtaining information or a confession; for punishment; or intimidation or coercion to prevent someone from doing something; or “for any reason based on discrimination of any kind.”

Wits Justice Project attorney Megan Geldenhuys confirmed that the attacks on the homeless on Johannesburg’s Rissik street amounts to torture within the definitions of the act.

With the historical lack of legislative provisions, torture has been carried out with impunity for far too long. And now that it has been criminalized, it is necessary to ensure that its provisions and safeguards are speedily communicated to every law-enforcement official and member of the judiciary.

How will the desk-sergeant in a rural police station in Mpumalanga know the difference between acceptable and excessive use of force? Training, sensitisation and human rights education is crucial at this stage of South Africa’s history.

Monaleng is a researcher at the Wits Justice Project. They can be contacted on: (011) 717 4686 or visit:witsjusticeproject.com