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This document is from the archive of the Africa Policy E-Journal, published by the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC) from 1995 to 2001 and by Africa Action from 2001 to 2003. APIC was merged into Africa Action in 2001. Please note that many outdated links in this archived document may not work.

South Africa: Indemnities by Former Regime
Any links to other sites in this file from 1995 are not clickable,
given the difficulty in maintaining up-to-date links in old files.
However, we hope they may still provide leads for your research.
South Africa: Indemnities by Former Regime
Date Distributed (ymd): 950118

Subject: Human Rights Watch letter to Mandela

HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH
485 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10017-6104
TEL (212) 972-8400
FAX (212) 972-0905
Email: hrwnyc@hrw.org

1522 K Street, NW, #910
Washington, DC 20005-1202
TEL (202) 371-6592
FAX (202) 371-0124
Email: hrwdc@hrw.org

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION Mike McClintock (212) 972-8400

(New York, NY) - January 13, 1994 -   In a letter to
President Mandela today, Human Rights Watch  called for
an investigation into the "indemnities" granted by
former President F.W. De Klerk to members of the
security forces and to the former Minister  of Law and
Order Adriaan Vlok.  Human Rights Watch asserts that
unilateral amnesties granted by  governments to their
own security forces are not valid under international
law, and these indemnities  should be set aside.

January 13, 1995
President Nelson Mandela
Office of the President
Pretoria South Africa

Your Excellency,

It is with extreme dismay that Human Rights
Watch/Africa has learnt of the indemnities granted by
your predecessor, F. W. de Klerk, to the former
Minister of Law and Order  Adriaan Vlok and 3,500 other
members of the security forces. Although there is a
need for further investigation into the circumstances
in  which the decision was made, it appears that these
indemnities were not granted in good faith, and we
urge you to set them aside.

As we stated in our report of October 1992, which was
sent to  President de Klerk, at the time of the Further
Indemnity Act, we do not believe that unilateral
amnesties granted by governments to their own security
forces are valid under international law.   Human
Rights Watch recognizes that in the course of a
difficult transition to democracy,  national
reconciliation may require the grant of generous
amnesty measures for those who committed violent acts
on all sides during the previous struggle.  But we
firmly believe that such clemency must not (and in
international law may not) extend to offenses so
egregious that they  constitute  crimes against
humanity.

The successor authorities are under an affirmative
obligation to  investigate, prosecute and punish these
crimes, and to invalidate legal subterfuge and secret
measures  that are obstacles to their compliance with
that obligation.  No concept of "reconciliation" can
justify the upholding of these indemnities where those
indemnified have committed or been responsible  for
murder, torture or other gross violations of
internationally recognized human  rights.  The manner
in which these indemnities were granted and then
concealed  brings  into question the good faith of the
authorities who were then in power and are now part  of
the  coalition government, as well as their commitment
to the rule of law in the new  order.

Sincerely,
Ken Roth
Executive Director

*******************************************************
This material is being reposted for wider distribution
by the Washington Office on Africa (WOA) and the Africa
Policy Information Center (APIC).  WOA is a
not-for-profit church, trade union and civil rights
group supported organization that works with Congress
on Africa-related legislation. APIC is WOA's
educational affiliate.

*******************************************************


URL for this file: http://www.africafocus.org/docs95/hrw9501.16.php