PRESS STATEMENT | Judgment in prison torture case expected tomorrow in Johannesburg High Court

Date: 30/08/2023

Tomorrow, 31 August 2023 at 10am, judgment will be handed down at the Johannesburg High Court in the matter of Smith and Others v Minister of Justice and Correctional Services. Lawyers for Human Rights and Webber Wentzel act on behalf of five plaintiffs who were tortured at the Leeuwkop Maximum Correctional Centre.

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, in his capacity as the employer of prison officials at 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.

The trial, which commenced in 2019 and was delayed multiple times during the COVID-19 pandemic finally concluded in August 2022. This matter is the first of its kind in South Africa where the Court was asked to consider intentional state conduct relating to the elements of the crime of torture under the Prevention of Combating and Torture of Persons Act, 2013.

“This case is about our clients’ rights to human dignity, freedom and security of person, and the right to redress. Most importantly, it is about the right not be subjected to torture regardless of the circumstances that one finds oneself in. A successful outcome will be precedent setting and is vital as in the context of South Africa’s clear, binding international human rights’ law obligations to protect persons against torture,” said Nabeelah Mia, Head of the Penal Reform Programme at LHR.

The crime of torture is a shocking reality in South Africa. We hope that this matter will adequately sanction authority figures found guilty of the crime of torture. Such adequate sanctions are a prerequisite to ending torture, which does not have a place in our constitutional democracy,” said Odette Geldenhuys, Head of the Webber Wentzel Pro Bono team.

For further information, please contact:

Nabeelah Mia, Lawyers for Human Rights


Odette Geldenhuys, Webber Wentzel


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