PRESS STATEMENT | Correctional Services found 100% liable for assault and torture

Date: 31/08/2023

Judgment was handed down at the Johannesburg High Court in the matter of Smith and Others v Minister of Justice and Correctional Services finding the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services 100% liable for damages arising for acts of assaults and torture as contemplated in the Prevention and Combating of Torture of Persons Act 13 of 2013.

In August 2014 the plaintiffs, all of whom were incarcerated at Leeuwkop at the time, were brutally tortured by Department of Correctional Services officials. In 2015, the plaintiffs instituted action against the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services (“the Minister”), in his capacity as the employer of prison officials at Leeuwkop Maximum Correctional Centre (“Leeuwkop”) for the extensive physical and psychological injuries and suffering caused by the torture carried out by DCS officials. REDRESS, an international NGO that works on behalf of survivors of torture, was admitted as a friend of the court.

Lawyers for Human Rights and Webber Wentzel act on behalf of five plaintiffs who were tortured at the Leeuwkop.

Honourable Francis J held that the rights infringements which the plaintiffs were subjected to amounted to torture: “The cumulative effects of the violations that the plaintiffs endured, including protracted and egregious assaults, humiliation, unlawful and inhumane segregation and the denial of timely and adequate medical treatment. The assaults that were inflicted on them rose to the level of torture as defined in the Torture Act.

Our clients’ rights have been vindicated. They are ecstatic with the result. This judgment gives effect to the principle that human rights are universal and all persons are entitled to dignity and to be free from torture. No one can act without impunity,” said  Nabeelah Mia, Head of the Penal Reform Programme at LHR.

A copy of the judgment can be found here.

For further information, please contact:

Nabeelah Mia (Lawyers for Human Rights)


Odette Geldenhuys (Webber Wentzel)


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