Victory for Apartheid-era victims

10 March 2010 by Elles van Gelder

South African president Jacob Zuma must consult with victims before issuing any pardons for prisoners convicted of politically motivated crimes during the apartheid era. That’s according to a ruling by the country’s constitutional court.

Three years ago, former president Thabo Mbeki created the so-called special pardons process. The process was aimed at completing the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) set up in 1995. Victims and perpetrators of gross human rights violations were invited to give statements before the TRC and perpetrators could request amnesty from both civil and criminal prosecution. The TRC ended its work in 1998 and as a follow up, Mbeki established the pardons committee - consisting of representatives of all political parties - to consider applications for pardon and make recommendations to the president.

The committee evaluated more than 2,000 applications for presidential pardons from political prisoners who did not participate in the TRC and who committed offences before June 16th, 1999.

People who applied for a pardon have been convicted of criminal offences including murder, bombings, kidnapping and acts of racial violence. But unlike the TRC, the pardons committee refused to allow the victims of these crimes to participate in the process, saying that consultation wasn’t part of their mandate.

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