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In a nation where the abuse of human rights constitutes a daily occurance, it is not surprising that the international community has focused its concern on the repeated allegations of torture that have arisen in South Africa.

I have been asked to address the question of torture in South Africa, the institutions and organizations in that country which monitor human rights particularly those that concentrate on the issue of torture and, finally, to offer recommendations regarding U.S. policy.

I have traveled extensively throughout South Africa and was mostrecently in the country in March where I had the opportunity to speak with representatives of various organizations working for change. Those conversations, together with intensive study of South Africa over the years, have helped me develop a sharper understanding of that society and the forces which shape it.


It is no exaggeration to say that if one is detained in South Afric they are almost certain to tortured. Too many allegations and more than enough evidence lends ample support to the charge that torture is commonplac

However, there is also evidence to show that it is no longer the case that an indifferent South Africa is prepared to pretend that torture doesn't exit. This is not to suggest that white South Africa has become more caring or deeply concerned about the plight of largely black detainees. It is to suggest, however, that since the death of Steve Biko in 1977, various organizations and institutions have come into existance primarily as a consequence of the shocking press reports and political trials detailing the brutal, yet routine use of torture by South Africa's infamous security police.

Torture is no recent phenomena in South Africa. Almost from the day that whites arrived in Cape Town in 1652, torture became a standard practice within the country. To some degree is was largely as the result of the introduction of slavery, but it could also be traced to the harshness of Calvinism and the "white man as boss" attitude of the times. As a result, there was an almost complete disregard for the physical well-being of people of color. Unfortunately, some of that disregard has carried over to the present.

In the early days of South Africa, torture was primarily used to force a person to admit a crime out of his or her own mouth. If accused, there was a presumption of guilt and a confession was necessary to show absolute proof. Rather than being regarded as prove of innocence, the failure to make a

confession, even after the most intense torture, was regarded as a sign of extreme criminality and the lack of any true.repentance.


However, torture was not elevated to an art form in South Africa until the Afrikaners came to power in 1948. Concern about the rising dissent within the country and the failure to gain a conviction in the "Treason Trial of 1956, the Afrikaner government introduced legislation designed to suspend habeus corpus and provide the police with wide powers of detention and In 1963, the General Law Amendment Act was passed which authorized senior police officers to arrest without warrant and to hold an individual for 90-days for questioning. Under the legislation, courts had no jurisdiction to order the release of any person detained. By the time it was repealed in 1965 to be replaced with a more onerous 180-day detention law and then subsequently the unlimited detention of the Terrorism Act, over 1000 people had been held, most of whom were never formally charged. The law was a precedent. The security police were free to do as they pleased. Soon there were serious allegations of assaults upon detainees and the first three of what would be many, died while in detention under this law.

From 1963 through 1975, twenty-two people died while in police custody and those that survived charged that the police were routinely using torture to elicit information or confessions. In affidavits and statements to various international organizations including the United Nations and Amnesty International, former detainess and prisoners alleged that they had been electrocuted; forced to bathed and drink from urinals and ordered to jump in place while wearing shoes containing small stones.

Men have alleged that they have been beaten and kicked in their genitals, and in one instance, a detainee had a nail driven through his penis and another had his genitals squeezed with pliers. In addition, all detainees complained of prolonged, incessant interrogation; deprivation of sleep, food and toilet facilities; long-term solitary confinement and assaults by teams of police including slapping, punching, kicking, and beatings with truncheons, hoses and sticks. Detainees have had their arms, legs, ribs, toes, hands and fingers crushed or broken; many have lost their eyes while others have had their internal organs ruptured. Many others have been rendered semi-comatose as a consequence of the beatings and psychological abuse they received at the hands of the security police.

Despite the charges and the litany of abuses that were present in virtually every court case, torture was mainly the concern of the black community and those few whites compassionate enough to care. Then came 1976 and the uprisings in Soweto and the other black townships. Brutality was raised to a higher level. Where over a 12-year period 22 people had died while in police custody, that number more than doubled between 1976 and 1977.

One of those who lost his life was Steve Biko, the charismatic leader of the Black Consciousness Movement who on September 12, 1977 was found naked and dead in a Pretoria prison hospital, the 46th person to die while in police detention. The death of Steve Biko riveted international attention on South Africa in a way that no other single event had been able to do. It provided a rare opportunity to learn of the widespread and systematic use of torture by South Africa's security police.

For much of Biko's last 25 days, he was kept naked and in solitary confinement with only scraps of bread to eat. He was subjected to relentless interrogation by teams of officers who often kept him chained to a venilation grille. At some point during his detention he was beaten to such and extent that he suffered massive brain damage that left him in a stupor. On the last day of his life, and in a semi-coma, Biko was placed naked and unattended in the back of a police van and driven 750 miles to Pretoria where he died on a urine-infested blanket the following day.

The insensitivity of the government was never better expressed then when the Minister of Justice was asked about Biko's death and responded by saying "his death leaves me cold." Indeed, the absolute, and untrammelled authority of the security police was revealed with a chilling finality when the attorney for the Biko family asked the commander of the special branch of the security police, "what right have you to keep a man in chains for 48 hours or more? where do you get the authority from?" To which the commander responded by indicating that the police were above the law and that they did not work under statutory authority. Not surprisingly, the police were exnorated from any and all responsibility for the death of Steve Biko.

Biko's death stunned, shocked and aroused the white South African public. Roger Osmond, a South African journalist summed it up best when he wrote:

No one can any longer plead ignorance of special branch behavior. We know now as we didn't know before that a detainee can be kept naked in a prison cell for three weeks, that he can be deprived of exercise, washing facilities and the right to buy food in direct contradiction of regulations,

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