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Transforming Society

Securing Rights

Restoring Dignity

Human Rights & Law Enforcement

Human Rights and Law Enforcement
The Human Rights and Law Enforcement is one of the seven focus areas identified by the South African Human Rights Commission in order to effectively fulfill its mandate of promoting, protecting and monitoring the realisation of human rights in South Africa.

The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) has a mandate to promote, protect, and monitor human rights in the country.  In keeping with its mandate the Commission is committed to protecting the human rights of those incarcerted without trial.  The South African police service has a stated commitment to a human rights based approach to community policing, however violations of persons civil and political rights are still being perpetrated.  
Human Rights and Law Enforcement
The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) has a mandate to promote, protect, and monitor human rights in the country.  In keeping with its mandate the Commission is committed to protecting the human rights of those incarcerted without trial.  The South African police service has a stated commitment to a human rights based approach to community policing, however violations of persons civil and political rights are still being perpetrated.

Section 11 Committees
Section 11 Committees are advisory boards comprised of experts from different disciplines and institutions, who advise the Commission on matters related to Human Rights Policing.  The committee name derives from the section of the South African Human Rights Commission Act, No. 40 of 2013, and provide for the Commission to establish advisory committees that bring together experts on specific focus areas.  

In 2015 the Commission has convened a Section 11 Committee on the Prevention of Torture; Human Rights and Law Enforcement; and Human Rights in Correctional Services, comprised of academics, civil society, and government departments.

Stemming from this Section 11 Committee meeting, the Commission signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the South African Police Service on human rights in law enforcement and the reduction of violence and torture by police officials.

The aim of the memorandum is to promote the observance of, respect for and the protecion of fundamental human rights amongst the population in order to dissuade the public from inciting and resorting to acts of violence during public  demonstraion and protests.

Own-initiative Investigations
The Commission initiates investigations into cases involving infringements on human rights by law enforcement as they arise.  An example of an own initiative investigation is the Commission’s findings of an investigation into violations of access to health for detainees at the Lindela Repatriation Centre.    

The Commission’s investigation was in response to a complaint from non-governmental organisations, Medecins Sans Frontiers, Section 27, Lawyers for Human Rights, People Against Suffering, Oppression and Poverty, raising concerns about access to, and quality of, health for non-nationals detained at Lindela.

The Commission stressed the need for Departments of Home Affairs and DIRCO to take urgent steps for the creation of an independent monitoring mechanism as contained in the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, to undertake frequent monitoring of places of detention over and above the Department’s own duty to monitor these facilities.

Investigative Hearings:
In 2011 the Commission initiated an investigation into the killing of Andries Tatane, an activist from Ficksburg in the Free State Province. The Commission report contains findings pursuant to an investigation into allegations that human rights of a citizen were violated in the course of a public protest.  
 
International & Regional Conferences
The Commission participated in the review of South Africa’s report under the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in Geneva March 2016.

Advocacy and public education
The Commission invited members of the media to the three day Regional Training Workshop on Prevention of Torture: Enhancing the Role of SADC National Human Rights Institutions in Combating Torture, in April 2013.

Domestic Legislation, International And Regional Frameworks on the Human Rights and Law Enforcement

At an International Level
South Africa has signed and ratified the United Nations Covenant of Civil and Political Rights and the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

Currently, South Africa has signed, but has to ratify the United Nations Optional Protocol for the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.  This will enable South Africa to establish the National Preventative Mechanism, which is a monitoring and visiting programme for places of detention.  The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development and the Commission are in advanced stages of discussions regarding the ratification and the assignment of the monitoring mechanism within the Commission.

At a Regional Level
Regionally, South Africa is a member of the African Union, and has signed the African Charter.  Article 5 of the African Charter speaks to the prevention of torture in Africa.

In 2002, South Africa signed the Guidelines and Measures for the Prohibition and Prevention of Torture, Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in Africa, also referred to as the Robben Island Guidelines.  10 years later, South Africa signed the Johannesburg Declaration and Plan of Action, which aim to implement the Robben Island Guidelines.

Recently, the Commission made a submission to the African Unions Committee on Torture Prevention in Africa on the right to redress for victims of torture in Africa.

At a Domestic Level
Nationally, South Africa has criminalised the action of torture in the Preventing and Combating and Torture of Persons Act (13 of 2013).

Events

  • In August 2016 the Commission presented to the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Police.   
  • On 28th & 29th April 2016 the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) in partnership with the African Policing Civilian Oversight Forum (APCOF) and the SA Police Services (SAPS) will, host a Dialogue on Policing and Human Rights.
  • The Commission participated in the review of South Africa’s report under the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in Geneva March 2016.
  • The Commission hosted a three-day media Regional Training Workshop on Prevention of Torture: Enhancing the Role of SADC National Human Rights Institutions in Combating Torture April 2013.

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About us

The Human Rights Commission is the national institution established to support constitutional democracy. It is committed to promote respect for, observance of and protection of human rights for everyone without fear or favour.

Braampark Forum 3, 33 Hoofd Street, Braamfontein

011 877 3600 (Switchboard)

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