END TORTURE AND IMPUNITY! SACTJ calls for changes to the architecture and working methodology of the National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) in South Africa.

By Published On: 16th November 2021

Torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman, degrading treatment and punishment were
routinely and widely practised during the Apartheid era in South Africa. These human rights
abuses are still rife in the country and need to be combated in a variety of ways.

South Africa is obliged to take steps to eradicate torture and these other types of violations,
in accordance with our Constitution (especially Section 12 of the Bill of Rights) as well as the
country’s international obligations. In 2019, South Africa ratified the Optional Protocol to the
Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
(OPCAT) which requires the establishment of a National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) to
monitor all sites of confinement, detention, or incarceration, that deprive people of their
liberty in all forms.

The South African Human Rights Commission is at the helm of this oversight work. A draft
discussion paper on ‘The Role of Civil Society in The Work of The National Preventive
Mechanism (NPM)’ was circulated by the SAHRC for public input. In response to the discussion
paper, the South African Coalition for Transitional Justice (SACTJ) notes several concerns and
limitations regarding the creation and functioning of the NPM, and the involvement of civil
society in its work. The SACTJ calls for changes to the architecture and working methodology
of the NPM in South Africa. These calls are outlined in a Memorandum prepared by Professor
Jeremy Sarkin on behalf of the SACTJ.

Some of the specific issues raised include the need for the NPM to be more democratic, the
need for more resources for the NPM, and the need for legislative reform to ensure that the
process is more democratic, open, transparent, and fit to deal with the matters under its
umbrella. The SACTJ also recommends that the NPM process be more inclusive of various
stakeholders, including institutions currently playing a role in monitoring and dealing with
places affected by the acts of torture and other abuses. It is essential that the NPM draw on
existing expertise of organisations, institutions, and civil society actors with experience and
knowledge on monitoring places of detention.

The SACTJ also raises flags on issues of nondisclosure and liability of people working for the NPM. The Memorandum addresses these issues and makes recommendations to ensure that the NPM is effectively equipped to fulfil its mandate as a mechanism to prevent torture and to combat the culture of impunity for
such abuses in places of detention and confinement in South Africa.

The Memorandum has been delivered to the coordinating process of the NPM to raise these
concerns regarding the creation of the NPM and its modus operandi. While the SACTJ has
received acknowledgement of the Memorandum, we have not heard confirmation that it has
been shared with the NPM partners or will be discussed.

The SACTJ calls for the Memorandum to serve at the upcoming meeting of the NPM partners
on 7 December 2021. A functioning NPM is fundamental to the work of monitoring places of
detention and confinement and for the prevention of the scourge of torture that occurs in in
these places. Therefore, it is crucial that the NPM operates properly and effectively to ensure
the safety and protection of persons deprived of their liberty. The SACTJ wishes to play a
constructive role and stands ready to engage on these issues and the work of the NPM.
The full Memorandum written by Professor Jeremy Sarkin is available for those who wish to
obtain it.


16 November 2021
Media Contact:
Jemma Blacklaw
Email: jemmablacklaw@gmail.com
Cell number: 0723912273
Endorsed by:
Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation
Human Rights Media Centre
Khulumani Support Group
Institute for Healing of Memories
Foundation for Human Rights
Institute for Justice and Reconciliation

Individuals:Jeremy Sarkin
Thozama Njobe
Salim Essop
Jemma Blacklaw
Helen Scanlon


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