Torture in South African prisons

Gautengers woke on Tuesday morning to the prolonged screaming of a prisoner allegedly being tortured in Pretoria central prison. Talk Radio 702 aired, on the John Robbie morning show, a recording allegedly smuggled out of the prison – of a remand detainee or ATD (awaiting trial detainee, or, as Judge Johann Kriegler prefers to say, “an unsentenced detainee”) having an electrified shield being shoved into his body as part of an “interrogation” by a task team of warders. The detainee – who is still innocent since he has not yet been sentenced – was suspected of having a cell-phone with him. As a result, Correctional Services and the SAPS are investigating allegations of torture against six prison warders. The issue of whether torture exists in SA prisons, how prevalent it is, and what the authorities are doing about it has thus been pushed – at least for maybe two days – into centre stage again. Allegations were also made that the same may have happened to some other remand detainees previously, said Correctional Services in a statement released on Wednesday. It is noteworthy, however, that the government has not yet criminalized torture, despite this being one of the obligations of having ratified the United Nations Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UN CAT) in 1998. Vincent Moaga of the South African Human Rights Commission (HRC) has called for adequate torture legislation to be implemented in line with the UN CAT. “There have been numerous reports of assaults and unnatural deaths in policing and custodial settings in the recent past,” said Clare Ballard of the Civil Society Prison Reform Initiative (CSPRI) on Tuesday. But, for many of these cases, “the alleged perpetrators have been neither investigated nor prosecuted.” One man alleged that he was beaten up so badly by officials at a Free State prison that he is wheelchair-bound and can no longer tie his own shoelaces, according to a letter he sent to the Wits Justice Project (WJP)...

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