PRESS STATEMENT | Prison torture in the spotlight as five plaintiffs head back to court

Date: 11/04/2022

Lawyers for Human Rights (“LHR”) and Webber Wentzel will be in the Johannesburg High Court on Monday 11 April 2022 acting as co-representatives for five plaintiffs who were allegedly tortured at the Leeuwkop Maximum Correctional Centre. The trial, which commenced in 2019 and is currently part-heard, was delayed multiple times during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In August 2014 the plaintiffs, all of whom were incarcerated at Leeuwkop at the time, were brutally tortured by Department of Correctional Services officials. The torture is alleged to have included being stripped naked and electrocuted under water, being forced to squat, defecate, and do handstands for prolonged periods of time. Furthermore, the plaintiffs had dogs set upon them and at one point, were instructed to lie down while an official walked on their necks and electrocuted their backs. Four of the five inmates were unlawfully placed into solitary confinement, shackled, and left without any bedding or medical treatment for the injuries they sustained. 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 for the extensive physical and psychological injuries and suffering caused by the torture carried out by DCS officials.

This matter involves consideration of intentional state conduct regarding the elements of the crime of torture under the Prevention of Combating and Torture of Persons Act, 2013 and is the first type of case of this nature heard in our courts. A successful outcome will be precedent setting and is vital as it requires the court to consider South Africa’s clear, binding international treaty obligations that we are obliged to respect and uphold in respect of protection against torture. Most importantly, it is a case that highlights the right to human dignity, the right to freedom and security of person, and the right to redress.

Nabeelah Mia, Penal Reform Attorney states that “we hope that this matter will see the beginning of accountability of state officials – especially correctional services officials for the crime of torture. There can be no end to torture without it being adequately addressed by criminal sanction and adequate redress for victims. It is important, as in this case, that a spotlight be shone by the NGO sector and human rights activists upon unlawful conduct in the treatment of prisoners.”

For further information, please contact:

Palesa Maloisane (Lawyers for Human Rights)
Tel: +27 11 339 1960

Moray Hathorn (Webber Wentzel)
Tel: +27 11 530 5539

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