TO: All Media
ATT: News Editors, Human Rights Reporters
For immediate release
Monday, 10 August 2020
WEBINAR 1: The Unfinished Business of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission: Justice Delayed Justice Denied
The Foundation for Human Rights (FHR) was established in 1996 by then President of South Africa, President Nelson Mandela, and the European Union (EU), to address the legacy of apartheid, support South Africa’s transition to democracy, and build a culture of human rights in the new democracy. Since its inception, the FHR has been involved in keeping the legacy of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in South Africa alive.
The constitutional and statutory design of the amnesty process in South Africa specifically envisaged that criminal investigations, and where appropriate, prosecutions, would take place where perpetrators of apartheid-era crimes were refused amnesty or failed to apply for amnesty. However, more than twenty years into democracy, the victims of gross human rights violations and their families are still waiting for justice and closure, while perpetrators and beneficiaries of apartheid enjoy their comfortable lives.
As part of FHR’s efforts to revive the discussion around the “Unfinished Business of the TRC”, the FHR wishes to hold a series of on-line webinars, which will focus on various aspects of “Unfinished Business”. The first in the series of webinars “The Unfinished Business of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission: Justice Delayed Justice Denied” will be hosted on Zoom, on the 13th of August 2020 (Thursday), at 11 a.m. To attend the first webinar please register using the following link:
During the webinar we will speak about the delay in investigations and prosecutions of gross human rights violations committed during apartheid, and how it has prejudiced the rights of victims and their families to justice and accountability. The prosecutions in the matter of enforced disappearance of Nokuthula Simelane and recent reopened inquests into the deaths in detention of anti-apartheid activists such as Ahmed Timol and Neil Aggett have brought into the spotlight information on how both the South African Police Services (SAPS) and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) colluded with political forces ostensibly at the highest level, to ensure the deliberate suppression of investigations and prosecutions of TRC apartheid era cases. This coupled with the attempts by the Executive to grant administrative pardons to the perpetrators of apartheid-era crimes as well as administratively expunge their crimes and the failure by the Government to fully implement reparations recommended by TRC, have left the victims feeling betrayed, traumatized and with little hope for justice.
The webinar will include a panel discussion and a Q&A session, and is open to the public, press and other interested parties. The panel will include the families of apartheid-era victims who have been engaged in a continued struggle for justice for their loved ones. We will also host Ms Yasmin Sooka, who is a former Commissioner of the TRC in South Africa, and who has been actively engaged in a struggle for criminal accountability in South Africa and beyond. The webinar will be chaired by the FHR’s Executive Director Hanif Vally and the panel will include:
- Ms Thembisile Nkadimeng, sister of the late Nokuthula Simelane
- Mr Lukhanyo Calata, son of the late Fort Calata (Cradock 4)
- Mr Imtiaz Cajee, nephew of the late Ahmed Timol
- Ms Yasmin Sooka, Chair of the UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan and Strategic Advisor to the FHR’s ‘Unfinished Business of the TRC’ Programme
FHR will also livestream the webinar via Facebook Live (Foundation for Human Rights at @FHRights) and will live tweet over twitter @FHRRights.
Should you require technical support with registration or with joining the webinar, kindly get in touch with out IT support at WebinarITsupport@fhr.org.za
Should require more information on the FHR’s Programme on the Unfinished Business of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, kindly consult our website https://www.unfinishedtrc.co.za or contact us at TRCunfinished@fhr.org.za .
Other webinars that are part of this series will include:
Webinar 2: Did the TRC’s failure to address socio-economic rights entrench inequality in South Africa?
Webinar 3: International Convention against Apartheid – Will the crime of apartheid as a crime against humanity be ever prosecuted?
Webinar 4: South Africa should not withdraw from the International Criminal Court. How can civil society convince the government and why is it important?
About the Foundation for Human Rights and its Programme on the Unfinished Business of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission
The Foundation was established as one of the key instruments of the transition by the Government of South Africa (former President Mandela himself signed the agreement) and the European Union in 1996 to address past violations, establish a human rights culture and promote the new Constitution. Since 1996, the FHR’s mission has been to address inequality and promote and entrench human rights values as enshrined in the South African Constitution by direct funding to civil society organisations. Since its inception, one of the FHR’s major portfolios has been built around accountability for gross human rights violations committed during the apartheid period. The FHR’s responsibilities within this programme include coordinating the efforts of various parties seeking justice for the victims of apartheid; funding and overseeing the investigations and prosecution of apartheid-era crimes; and supporting the South African Coalition for Transitional Justice in their quest for truth, reparations, and criminal accountability for human rights violations during apartheid. FHR’s interventions, under the Unfinished Business of the TRC Programme, are aimed at ensuring criminal accountability but also supporting the truth processes by piercing the cloak of secrecy surrounding the activities of the then Security Branch of the South African Police and the state.
Among others, the FHR has been engaged in the following initiatives:
- In 2001, it assisted the TRC to finalize its Final Report to Government.
- It has supported Khulumani Support Group – the organisation representing victims to pursue its submission to the Government of South Africa on reparations, and also supported the preparatory work for their litigation under the Aliens Tort Claim Act in the USA against foreign companies.
- It engaged with the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to secure prosecutorial guidelines. However, in 2005, the NPA published new amendments to the NPA’s Prosecution Policy, which effectively created a ‘backdoor amnesty’ in which perpetrators of apartheid-era crimes could not be pursued. The victims’ families in challenged this new policy in court and in 2008, the Court struck down the NPA’s amendments, declaring them to be absurd and unconstitutional.
- It supported litigation against the President opposing his use of presidential pardons to provide another opportunity for amnesty. In 2010, the Constitutional Court confirmed the decision of the High Court to interdict the President from granting pardons to the applicants without considering representations received from the victims.
- The FHR also provided the initial grant to the Missing Persons Unit at the NPA in order for the Unit to recruit staff and begin its work. Today, its exhumation work contributing to truth recovery is acknowledged in the region.
- The FHR supported the South African History Archive (SAHA) SABC project (http://sabctrc.saha.org.za) which led to the digitalization of the TRC hearings which are now accessible to all.
- The FHR also supported the rebuilding of the TRC Victims’ Database by the South African History Archives (SAHA).
- The FHR retained the services of investigators who undertook an analysis and review of the amnesty cases which had come before the TRC in South Africa. Based on this review, a ‘priority list’ of cases to be handed over to the NPA was finalised.
- The FHR supported investigations and prosecutions into the matters of Nokuthula Simelane, Ahmed Timol, Neil Aggett and Hoosen Hafejee, and has engaged in supporting the NPA and the Hawks in the investigation of other matters.
Lindiwe Sibiya – 082 634 7154