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Basson seeks committee’s recusal

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Former chemical and biological warfare expert Dr Wouter Basson has accused the chairman of the professional conduct committee which has to decide his fate of being biased against him even before his disciplinary hearing commenced.

Jaap Cilliers SC, for Basson, on Thursday applied for the recusal of the committee’s chairman Prof Jannie Hugo and fellow committee member Prof Eddie Mahlanga.

He argued that there was a clear perception of bias on the part off Hugo because he never disclosed that he was a member of or had an association with organisations which signed a petition agitating for Basson’s removal from the medical roll.

The petition was handed in as evidence in aggravation against Basson last year.

Cilliers said Hugo also never at any stage disassociated himself from the stance of the organisations that Basson should be struck from.

He argued that Hugo’s refusal to disclose if he was a member of any of the organisations was “bizarre” and his insistence on continuing with the hearing in Basson’s absence was a clear indication of bias.

Cilliers accused the committee of leaning towards the side of the complainants against Basson from the start, which was why the complainant was granted more than a year “to search the world” for an expert willing to support their stance that Basson had acted unethically.

When Basson, however, asked for a postponement to investigate Prof Hugo’s involvement in organisations and to approach the high court, the committee insisted that the hearing should continue in his absence.

“That was an absolute travesty of justice and a disregard of all rules pertaining to a fair trial,” he said.

He described the committee’s conduct as “absolutely unjust” and the proceedings as a “Laurel and Hardy show”.

Cilliers also attacked the committee’s stance that any medical doctor who joined the defence force in the 1980s was unethical and unprofessional.

He said this stance clearly indicated that the committee had been biased against Basson from the start.

The Health Professions Council in December 2013 found Basson guilty of unprofessional conduct as a medical doctor when he headed the apartheid government’s chemical and biological warfare programme between 1981 and 1992.

The committee found Basson had acted medically unethically when he co-ordinated the large scale production of illegal psychoactive drugs, equipped mortars with teargas, and provided military operatives with disorientating substances to facilitate illegal cross-border kidnappings.

It also found he had acted unethically by making cyanide capsules available to South African soldiers for suicide purposes and had violated the medical ethical principle of “first do no harm”.

The high court in January ruled that Basson was entitled to lodge a recusal application against the members of the committee and interdicted the committee from continuing in Basson’s absence. SAPA


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