South Africa - Criminal Injustice System & part of CIA's Global Torture Network
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New Report Reveals CIA's Global Torture Network
18 Feb 2013
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Snatching people off the streets. Hanging people from the ceiling. A man
freezing to death alone on a concrete floor. This is the story of how the
United States used its position to cajole, persuade and strong-arm 54 other
countries to take part in the CIA�s post-9/11 campaign of secret detention
and torture. The Open Society Justice Initiative has released a 216-page
report, �Globalising Torture� that exposes the extent of detentions and
torture carried out in the name of keeping Americans safe.
South Africa is one of the countries that participated in this global
programme of detention and torture. The report states, �South Africa was
implicated in the March 2003 extraordinary rendition of Saud Memon, a
Pakistani national and suspect in the murder of journalist Daniel Pearl. In
light of the secrecy associated with the abduction and the lack of any
record in South Africa of his deportation or extradition, it appears that
South Africa gave U.S. intelligence agencies �carte blanche� to pursue his
abduction and rendition from South Africa.
Download the report, �Globalising
*Editor's Note*: Also watch Democracy Now�s Amy Goodman read out the names
of all 54 countries involved in co-operating with the CIA
its torture programme. You might also be interested in "Zero Dark Thirty:
OK, It's Evil, But Is It Any
The Criminal Injustice System
By Jane Duncan <http://sacsis.org.za/s/stories.php?iUser=48> � 18 Feb 2013
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At the end of January, an all too familiar pattern of events played itself
out in the Pinetown Magistrate�s Court in Durban. Four member of the shack
dwellers� movement, Abahlali baseMjondolo, were arrested after a protest
against problematic practices in a housing development in KwaNdengezi. They
were accused of public violence, robbery, damage to property, and assault
with intent to do grievous bodily harm.
Charges were withdrawn against three in court, with the exception of public
violence. Abahlali has described the case as political and not criminal,
as their activism is challenging entrenched interests in the area. They
maintain that the charges against their members have been fabricated, and
that the flimsiness of the remaining charges will emerge once the matter
returns to court.
Meanwhile, in Makause, on the East Rand of Gauteng, three activists were
arrested in October last year and are due to appear in court next month, in
spite of the fact that, four months after their arrest, no formal charges
have been put to them.
The likely charge appears to be intimidation. One of the activists
apparently mentioned the Marikana massacre in a meeting to discuss an
intended march against police violence. Two activists were then
subsequently arrested for wearing T-shirts in support of the massacred
workers at Marikana, and one of them (a woman) was stripped of her T-shirt
and made to stand semi-naked in the police station. So the available
evidence points to the police having taken offence to the references to
Marikana, and this has formed the basis for the arrests.
Time will tell if the cases against these activists have any substance. But
if similar, previous cases are anything to go by, that they are likely to
Many citizens look to the criminal justice system for redress when they are
victims of crime and other social ills, and so they should. Their
expectation is that the system exists to deter crime and punish offenders,
and will mete out justice impartially, without fear or favour. The system
is also expected to mount a substantial case against accused persons, who
are meant to enjoy protections against abuses of the system, particularly
by its investigatory and prosecutorial arms.
But there are signs that - in situations where outspoken critics challenge
the power of politicians - the system can be turned against political
critics. The politicisation of the system is highly uneven: many police
officers and prosecutors conduct their work impartially, and with
integrity. But it is also apparent that political manipulation is a growing
The recent attempt by the National Prosecuting Authority to charge the
arrested Marikana miners with the murder of their own comrades under the
apartheid-era common purpose doctrine, is possibly the most visible and
shocking example of this trend. But there are many other, less well
These abuses are most noticeable in the investigatory arm of the system.
Many bogus criminal cases, cooked up by members of the police under the
sway of local politicians, are caught when the matters go to court, and
judges often unleash stinging rebukes against the police and prosecutors
Public violence and illegal gatherings are the most commonly used charges.
The familiar cycle is as follows. A protest occurs over a specific
grievance, which may or may not be �legal�. If the protest is �illegal�, it
is generally because the protestors have notified the municipality of their
intention to march, and the protest has been prohibited on unlawful
grounds, or because the protestors did not notify the municipality as they
know it will be prohibited or severely proscribed.
Alternatively, protestors may embark on other forms of direct action like
road blockades, after becoming sick and tired of holding march after march
where their memoranda of grievances are simply deposited into a municipal
If the protest turns violent, it is often in response to police violence
against what is generally a peaceful protest. In anger, the protestors run
amuck, attacking property and even people. The police then use the events
as an excuse to target prominent activists who are considered
�troublemakers�, whether they were directly involved in the violence or
not. They may even have attempted to prevent the violence. If they are
arrested after the fact, then their arrests are likelier to happen towards
the end of the week, to stretch their detention over the weekend before
appearing in court.
As in the Makause case, the charges may be left deliberately unclear,
making it impossible for the activists� legal representatives to prepare
adequately. The state generally applies for postponement after
postponement, claiming that its case is not ready, which ties the activists
up in court appearances for months, only for the charges to be dropped for
lack of evidence. By that stage, great damage has often been done to their
As evidence leaders, prosecutors may be too busy to question to integrity
of the police evidence, or they may actively facilitate the police strategy
to keep the activists behind bars by any means necessary.
Some activists cannot afford bail. But if they can, then another
increasingly common technique is to seek stringent bail conditions to
prevent activists from continuing their organising work, and magistrates -
inexperienced in constitutional matters - often simply accept the word of
the state prosecutor.
For instance, in Grahamstown in 2011, after a protest that resulted in
community members digging up a road in Phaphamani, Unemployed Peoples�
Movement and Womens� Social Forum activists were given bail conditions that
effectively banned them from political activity, including organising or
even participating in marches. The charges against the activists were
dropped a year later.
Sometimes, bail may be refused on spurious grounds. In the same year,
Thembelihle activist Bayi-Bayi Miya was arrested on charges of public
violence and intimidation for leading protests in the area, in spite of the
fact that Miya had in fact attempted to stop the violence. Other residents
were arrested too. The state opposed Miya�s bail successfully in the
magistrate�s court, and the police kept him in �preventative detention� to
stop him from organising any more protests.
The Socio Economic Rights Institute (SERI), representing Miya in the South
Gauteng High Court, argued that the state�s charges against him were so
weak that he would almost certainly be acquitted. They challenged
successfully the magistrate�s decision to allow the detention and deny
bail, but only after Miya had spent a month behind bars. Last year, the
case against the other residents was struck from the roll for lack of
evidence after seven months and nine postponements, leading SERI to
conclude that the case against their clients was, in fact, political.
Then there are the cases which strongly suggest that evidence against
activists has been manufactured for political reasons. A key witness in
Miya�s case emerged only 22 days after he was alleged to have uttered a
threat to burn her house down � in spite of her claiming to fear for her
life - and her statement was so weak that nothing of significance could be
deduced from it.
In 2009, members of Abahlali baseMjondolo were arrested on murder charges
following an armed attack on members in Kennedy Road informal settlement,
in an attempt to rout them out of the settlement.
The charges were eventually dismissed after the judge found contradictions
in the state�s case. Several of the witnesses were unsatisfactory, and the
judge questioned their truthfulness after it emerged in testimony that
witnesses had been coached to point out members of an Abahlali-affiliated
dance group, rather than just the perpetrators.
The democratic South African state still enjoys huge legitimacy; after all,
it is only two decades since many struggled and died to bring it into
being. But, by politicising the criminal justice system, the police and
politicians are sowing the wind.
Once the veneer of impartiality is stripped from the criminal justice
system, and it becomes exposed for what it truly is when the chips are down
- namely the repressive apparatus of the ruling political class � then the
state will lose its legitimacy. Struggles could move beyond localised
fights with non-performing councillors and escalate in a struggle against
this political class and even the state itself. Then they will have a
protracted fight on their hands that, in the long term, they cannot
*Professor Duncan* is Highway Africa Chair of Media and Information
Society, School of Journalism and Media Studies at Rhodes University.
Read more articles by Jane Duncan<http://sacsis.org.za/s/stories.php?iUser=48>
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