South Africa's human rights compromised by Information Bill, killing of miners, Human Rights Watch says

South Africa’s human rights compromised by Information Bill, killing of miners, Human Rights Watch says

(Source: HRW, edited by Issa Sikiti da Silva). In 2012, South Africa faced one of its most challenging years for protecting human rights since the birth of constitutional democracy in 1994, Human Rights Watch said in its 665-page World Report 2013 published last week.

“Three worrisome developments in particular emerged. The adoption of the Protection of State Information Bill by the National Council of Provinces in 2012, which would most likely be approved by the National Assembly in 2013, threatens freedom of expression and the free exchange of information,” the report said.

“The tragic killings at Lonmin Platinum Mine in August 2012 amounted to the failure to uphold and protect security of the person and the right to life. Thirdly, the proposed Traditional Courts bill would be a blow to the right to equality if it is promulgated into law.”

HRW South Africa director Cameron Jacobs said: “The rights that were compromised by legislation, or violated in practice, during 2012 are cornerstones of the transformative and democratic culture South Africa wants to create. These rights that are being compromised need to be jealously guarded.”

“This tragedy shone a spotlight on the poverty and grievances of many in the mining industry. South Africans now await the outcome of the Farlam Judicial Commission of Inquiry, which was appointed to determine whether the use of force was reasonable and justified under the circumstances.

“The police have a duty not just to ensure law and order but to do so within the rule of law,” Jacobs said. “This means that if they use force – particularly lethal force – it must be absolutely necessary and strictly proportionate to the threat of violence.

“The August killing of 34 miners at the Lonmin Platinum Mine in Marikana, North West Province, shocked South Africans and elevated the concerns over police brutality and underlying grievances over the government’s failure to fulfill basic economic and social rights.”

The report also slams the proposed Traditional Courts Bill, saying it could undermine the right to equality, and effectively restrict access to justice and other rights of vulnerable groups such as women, children, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.

Camaron said: “The proposed bill, as it currently stands, gives traditional leaders the authority to enforce controversial aspects of customary law such as the practice of ukutwala (forced marriage), to adjudicate compliance and to enforce sanctions.

“The right to enforce sanctions is of particular concern, as the bill provides for a range of sanctions including fines, forced labor, and the withdrawal of customary benefits such as the enjoyment of communal land.

HRW urged the South African government to amend the bill to make sure that it is in full compliance with international rights standards and protections.

These include the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, to which South Africa is a party, the New York-based group said.

The HRW’s World Report 2013 assessed progress on human rights during the past year in more than 90 countries, including an analysis of the aftermath of the Arab Spring.

*Photo by AP.  South Africa Police engage in deadly battles with platinum miners last year.

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