Enhancing torture prevention in Africa: Seminar on the 10th Anniversary of the Adoption of the Robben Island Guidelines and on the Deaths of Miners at the Lonmin Marikana Mine
Johannesburg 23 August 2012 - The Committee for the Prevention of Torture in Africa (CPTA), a Subsidiary Mechanism of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Commission), in collaboration with the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), and the Association for the Prevention of Torture (APT), have today concluded a three-day Commemorative Seminar on the 10th Anniversary of the Adoption of the Robben Island Guidelines, at the Sunnyside Park Hotel in Johannesburg, South Africa.
The seminar, which was officially opened by the Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, Mr Andries Nel on 21 August 2012, brought together participants from all regions of Africa comprising of representatives from Government institutions, National Human Rights Institutions, Non-governmental Organizations working on issues of torture prevention, former prominent Robben Island detainees, international experts as well as academics who have published on torture prevention in Africa and the Robben Island Guidelines for the Prohibition and prevention of Torture in Africa (RIG).
The main objective of the seminar was to enhance torture prevention efforts in Africa through the assessment of the impact of the RIG ten years after its adoption, the sharing of good practice and experiences in the implementation of the RIG, the identification of challenges that hinder the effective implementation of the Guidelines as well as brainstorming on possible solutions to these challenges. The seminar came up with the ‘Johannesburg Declaration and Plan of Action on the Prevention and Criminalization of Torture’ providing a significant impetus to the prevention of torture in Africa by equipping participants with the necessary knowledge and tools to make a difference in their respective countries.
The Robben Island Guidelines are an African context specific tool developed by the African Commission aimed at helping State Parties to the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights, to tackle the prevalent scourge of the use of torture and other forms of ill-treatment in Africa. The Guidelines were developed from an expert workshop organized by the African Commission in collaboration with its partners the APT and the SAHRC. The Guidelines were formally adopted by the African Commission in October 2002 and endorsed by the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union in July 2003, in Maputo, Mozambique.
In another development, the African Commission has sent an Urgent Appeal to the President of South Africa, His Excellency Jacob Zuma, on the unfortunate events that took place at the Lonmin Marikana Mines last week.
The Appeal requested the Government of South Africa that while the African Commission is encouraged to hear that an Inter-Ministerial Committee on the Marikana tragedy has been appointed, it requested the Government of South Africa, in light its obligations under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and other regional and international instruments to:
(a) Fully investigate the acts of violence which have been perpetrated by the striking
workers and the police;
(b) Ensure that all the perpetrators of these heinous acts are brought to justice; and
(c) Take all necessary measures to ensure the protection of its civilians in accordance with its regional and international human rights obligations.
The Appeal also informed the Government of South Africa that the content of the Urgent Appeal and any response received will be included in the Commission’s Activity Report which would be submitted to the 52nd Ordinary Session of the Commission, scheduled to be take place in Yamoussoukro, Côte d’Ivoire from 9 to 22 October 2012, and also to the 20th Summit of Heads of State and Government in January 2013.