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Transforming Society

Securing Rights

Restoring Dignity

SAHRC calls for release of petty Covid-19 regulations offenders

9 May 2020

Cape Town - The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) has urged government to ensure that all people who have been arrested for petty offences under the coronavirus (Covid-19) lockdown regulations be released and warned to appear in court on a future date.
The SAHRC welcomed the announcement by President Cyril Ramaphosa this week on the decision to place on parole selected categories of sentenced offenders, the commission said in a statement.
This was in line with the recent advisory recommendations issued by the commission under its national preventive mechanism (NPM) mandate to the state. These advisory recommendations sought to advance the preventive mandate and were part of an ongoing and constructive dialogue with relevant authorities, providing concrete recommendations to improve the system of deprivation of liberty over the long-term.
The declaration of a state of national disaster in terms of the Disaster Management Act, introduced several restrictions on the freedom of movement of people in the form of a stay-at-home lockdown, which had since been extended on a level four alert basis, the commission said.
"The declaration of a national state of disaster equally introduced a suspension of visitation to places of deprivation of liberty, such as correctional centres, police cells, for example, and further limitations on those in detention was also declared.

"Consequently, this has had an impact on those deprived of their liberty with limited capacity to take the necessary precautionary measures. However, the SAHRC has reiterated that these restrictions should never result in torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment of persons deprived of their liberty, including within correctional centres, police station detention cells, and other detention facilities, many of which are severely overcrowded and with poor sanitation.
"During this time of the national lockdown, the SAHRC urges the state to also ensure that all people who have been arrested for petty offences under the lockdown regulations should be released and warned to appear in court on a future date. This is line with the directions issued by the minister of justice and correctional services in terms of regulation 10 (2) of the regulations under the Disaster Management Act," the statement said.

Source: African News Agency/ANA

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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.

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