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African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights

Press Statement of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Situation In South Africa


The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (The Commission), through the country rapporteur for the Republic of South Africa, Commissioner Solomon Ayele Dersso, is following the unrest in the Republic of South Africa.  

The Commission learned from reports that unrest erupted in South Africa following the emergence of protests in various parts of South Africa in the wake of the incarceration of former President Jacob Zuma.

The Commission also notes with regret the deterioration of the situation into widespread violence involving looting, ransacking of property and business establishments and disruption of lines of transportation.  

The Commission expresses its grave concern over lives lost amid the spread of violence. It expresses its condemnation in particular of the reported death of more than 72 people during the ongoing unrest.

The Commission is further concerned about the serious impact of these acts of riots, looting and vandalism on safety of people, access to basic necessities and the socio-economic wellbeing of people in South Africa in general.

The Commission affirms the right of peaceful protests is an integral part of the right to freedom of assembly, freedom of association and freedom of expression, while underscoring that the right to peaceful protest never serves as licence for breaking the law and acts of lootings, destruction of property and violence.   

The Commission underscores that all measures should be put in place to protect the right to life guaranteed under Article 4 of the African Charter and prevent any arbitrary deprivation of life in the process of the effort to restore law and order.  

It is the requirement of the human rights principles and standards of the African Charter that law enforcement and security institutions exercise maximum restraint in the use of force and ensure that excessive use of force is totally avoided.

In this regard, the Commission, calls on the Government of South Africa to:

1) Ensure that normalcy is restored in full compliance with all human rights and fundamental freedoms;  

2) Ensure that law enforcement and security personnel deployed for containing the situation comply with the principles of precaution, proportionality and necessity in the use of force avoiding at all times the use of lethal force except as a last resort measure for protecting serious harm.  

3) Ensure that there is prompt, transparent, effective, independent and impartial investigations into all reported incidents of loss of lives and allegations of human rights violations and those arrested are brought to justice following due process of the law;

4) Avail those whose rights have been violated to have unhindered access to remedies; and

5) Initiate a national process that aims at addressing existing divisions and the structural conditions of inequality and socio-economic deprivations that erupt into unrest upon the emergence of triggering factors.

The African Commission joins South African institutions in urging people to contribute to the return of calm and normalcy in all areas affected by the violence.