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South Africa: ‘Abhorrent and Reprehensible’ Conduct – Court Orders State to Pay Damages for Torture of Prison Inmates

The sadistic conduct of Department of Correctional Services officials and the attempted official coverup, including by medical personnel, was reminiscent of apartheid state torture, a Johannesburg High Court judge emphasised.

In a landmark ruling, Judge Ellem Francis has found the state liable for damages under the Prevention and Combating of Torture of Persons Act 13 of 2013, known as the Torture Act.

This is the first such order in democratic South Africa.

The sadistic conduct of Department of Correctional Services (DCS) officials and the attempted official coverup, including by medical personnel, was reminiscent of apartheid state torture, the Johannesburg High Court judge highlighted in his ruling.

Handing down judgment on 31 August in the matter between the minister of justice and correctional services and five inmates at Leeuwkop Prison — Llewellyn Smith, Xolani Zulu, Benson Qibi, Abel Phasha and Mthokozisi Sithole — Francis severely censured state officials.

“It is rather sad and disturbing that some of the events that took place during the dark days of apartheid continue to take place in our beloved country at correctional facilities where some people in charge have learnt from the former masters about how to treat inmates who do not toe the line,” he said.

It was also “shocking that some officials would gang together to come up with a version in an attempt to mislead the courts about what really happened at…

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