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Amnesty International slams SA over xenophobic attacks and Bashir

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South Africa faced criticism from Amnesty International over last year’s xenophobic attacks, the way government dealt with Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, different scandals in state institutions, and excessive use of force by police.

“Torture and other ill-treatment and excessive use of force by police continued, although some measure of accountability was obtained,” the organisation’s report for 2015/16 said.

“Targeted violence against refugees and asylum-seekers resulting in deaths, displacement and property destruction also continued.”

It also mentioned how some “scandals” had affected the country.

“Criminal justice institutions, including the police oversight body and the prosecuting authority, were destabilised by scandals and internal tensions, affecting their credibility,” it said.

“Tension between the government and the judiciary increased.”

The report referred to the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) which reported 396 deaths as a result of police action in 2014/2015, six more than the previous year.

“From March 2014, more than 50 people had died in targeted killings. Official investigations were undermined by the authorities’ failure to protect individuals at risk and prevent violations of the rights of suspects detained for questioning by police.”

It said IPID had also reported 244 deaths in custody in 2014-2015, as well as 145 cases of torture, 34 cases of rape and 3 711 cases of assault by police officers in the same period.

South Africa was also mentioned for allowing Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir to leave the country, despite a High Court order to arrest him.

It said that “during the year there were numerous incidents involving violence against refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants”.

“The scale of the violence in the Durban area had little precedent and appeared to have been triggered by the widely reported statement by traditional leader King Goodwill Zwelithini that government must ensure all ‘foreigners’ leave South Africa.

“A preliminary finding of an inquiry by the South African Human Rights Commission into these alleged comments noted the harmful nature of his remarks, but absolved the King of inciting violence.”

The report also said the “harassment of human rights defenders and organisations and undermining of oversight bodies by ruling party and state officials remained a major concern”. It cited an incident where ANC members in the Free State had targeted activists from the Treatment Action Campaign.

It said that, while access to medical treatment for people living with HIV in the country continued to expand, it was marred by shortages in many areas.

However, “progress was made in addressing hate crimes based on people’s real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity”.

[Source: News24]
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