Pretoria: The adoption of the Robben Island Guidelines 10 years ago marked a historic step forward in the prevention of torture on the African continent, says Justice and Constitutional Development Deputy Minister Andries Nel.
Speaking at a commemorative seminar on the Robben Island Guidelines in Johannesburg on Tuesday, Nel said it was now time to consolidate the experiences gained so far and to analyse the remaining challenges in the fight against torture on the African continent.
“The adoption of the Robben Island Guidelines indeed marked a historic step forward in the prevention of torture on the African continent. Now, after ten years, it is time to consolidate the experiences gained so far and to analyse the challenges which still remain in the fight against torture on the African continent,” he said.
The Guidelines and Measures for the Prohibition and Prevention of Torture, Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in Africa by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights was adopted in 2002 by the African Union (AU).
Participants from more than 25 countries are expected to take part in the two-day seminar, including representatives from government institutions, national human rights institutions, civil society organisations as well as Commissioners of the African Commission, former Robben Island detainees, Parliamentarians, law practitioners and international experts in the field of torture prevention.
The deputy minister said with a brutal history of oppression and segregation, it was of particular importance to South Africa that it played an active role in the promotion of global human rights.
This, he said, was confirmed by the central objective on the foreign policy, which is aimed at creating a better South Africa in a better Africa and a better and safer world.
South Africa has created a number of oversight mechanisms to combat torture such as the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID), the Judicial Inspectorate of Prisons and the Human Rights Commission.
However, Nel said torture prevention was not the sole responsibility of government; it was a joint effort which required networks across all levels of society.
“Civil Society participation in the processes of torture prevention is vital in that it lends credibility and legitimacy to the process,” he said.
Nel also expressed his heartfelt condolences to the family, friends, relatives and colleagues of the late commissioner of the SA Human Rights Commission, Sandile Baai, who passed away last week.
“Commissioner Baai’s death is a loss not only to his family but also to the legal fraternity, the South African Human Rights Commission and the nation at large. We also share in the loss and our thoughts and prayers are with the family at this dark hour. May his soul rest in peace,” he said.