A critical review of torture legislation in South Africa.
The practice of torture is an affront to human dignity. Freedom from torture is an absolute human right. Laws that violated human rights and entrenched racial divisions characterized the apartheid era in South Africa. However, the transition from a repressive state to a democratic one, gave “birth” to a Constitution characterized by fundamental human rights, social justice and open democratic societal values. In order to have any real meaning, the human rights enshrined in the Constitution and various National and International instruments, needs to be realized in everyday life. These rights are valuable in that they provide the tools to empower victims, or rather, survivors of torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. A Criminal Justice System that focuses on victims’ rights and empowerment has the ability to transform the current maze that one must navigate to access justice. In keeping with its obligations as a signatory in 1984 to the UN Convention against Torture, South Africa has 29 years later, in 2013, passed in its parliament the first Legislative Act creating the specific offence of torture. This paper critically appraises the current state of legislative and other provisions in the light of South Africa’s position against torture and analyses its fresh new law with the objective of establishing how effective these measures will be and what future recommendations are required for reinforcing its prevention.