UN Report Shows SA Government Must Start Respecting Human Rights!

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Thursday, 31 March, 2016 - 12:50

The United Nations Human Rights Committee hard-hitting report on South Africa’s record on civil and political rights, argues the Right2Know Campaign

The Right2Know Campaign (R2K) welcomes the United Nations Human Rights Committee hard-hitting report on South Africa’s record on civil and political rights.

The organisation calls on the Department of Justice & Constitutional Development to speedily implement the committee’s recommendations and give a deadline by when these reforms will be in place.

This report comes three weeks after the United Nations Human Rights Committee reviewed South Africa’s human rights record and its implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. R2K was one of several civil society organisations that made submissions to the Committee (See R2K’s statement, 6 March 2016).

Download the UN Human Rights Committee’s report here.

In particular we draw attention to the following findings.

Surveillance and violations of privacy

The Committee raises serious concerns about South Africa’s surveillance practices and found the South African government should increase the transparency of the law governing surveillance, RICA, and put in place independent oversight mechanisms to prevent abuses and ensure that people who are targeted for surveillance have access to effective remedies.

The Committee recommends that the South African government must stop engaging in mass surveillance of private communications without the express authorisation of a judge, and consider revoking or limiting the requirement for mandatory retention of data by telecommunications and Internet service providers.
R2K demands:

Mass surveillance is unconstitutional and it demands an end to such practice! RICA needs urgent and radical reforms. R2K also demands Parliament urgently appoints an Inspector General of Intelligence and a privacy watchdog to the office of the Information Regulator. The organisation further calls on South Africans to unite and challenge mass surveillance!

Protecting activists and human rights defenders

The UN Human Rights Committee expresses its concern at reports of threats, intimidation, harassment, excessive use of force and physical attacks against human rights defenders, by private actors and police. This comes a week after anti-mining activist Sikhosiphi ‘Bazooka’ Rhadebe was gunned down by unidentified individuals in Xolobeni in the Eastern Cape, after mounting intimidation.

The Committee states that South Africa should take all the necessary steps to protect the right of human rights defenders and ensure freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly. It should ensure that police officials receive adequate training regarding the protection of human rights defenders, and thoroughly investigate all attacks on the life, physical integrity and dignity of these persons.
R2K demands:

Government must act now to end the culture of intimidation and violence against activists, especially poor, black and rural activists who are most affected. The most urgent areas for intervention are Glebelands Hostel in KwaZulu-Natal and Xolobeni.

Police violence and Marikana

The Committee expressed grave concern about reports of police violence against protesters, and especially at the slow pace of any investigation of criminal responsibility of the South African Police Service (SAPS) members for the Marikana massacre. Among its recommendations the Committee explicitly recommends investigating the potential liability of Lonmin mining company, and prosecuting all perpetrators of illegal killings related to the Marikana massacre.

Our demands:

We demand arrests and prosecutions for those who pulled the trigger at Marikana, and those who gave the orders. No more delays! We call on government investigate Lonmin’s liability.

What next?

While R2K’s submission to the UN Human Rights Committee, with Privacy International and the Association of Progressive Communications, related especially to the use and abuse of surveillance in South Africa, this report is damning on several fronts. We must now intensify a homegrown campaign for our own government to respect the rights of its citizens and live up to its promises in the Constitution.

We call on the Department of Justice & Constitutional Development to state when and how it will be fixing these glaring lapses.

For more about the Right2Know Campaign, refer to www.r2k.org.za.

Photo Courtesy: On The Line Media

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