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South Africa: President Zuma must urgently make Marikana findings public

    March 30, 2015

    South African President Jacob Zuma must urgently make public the findings of the Marikana Commission of Inquiry into the violence that that led to the killings of 34 striking miners on 16 August 2012 and the violent deaths of 10 other people in the preceding days, Amnesty International said today.

    The Commission is required to submit its final report and findings to the President on 31 March 2015.

    “The surviving victims of the tragic events of Marikana and the families of all those who died have a right to receive justice and reparations for the harm they have suffered,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for Southern Africa.

    “President Jacob Zuma must make public the full report as a priority. The South African authorities must also ensure full accountability and the re-establishment of lawful and impartial policing as a matter of urgency.

    Amnesty International has followed the work of the Commission of Inquiry closely from its establishment in late 2012, including attending many of its hearings and providing support in collaboration with others to the victims. 

    In August 2014, the organization published a briefing, “South Africa: Unlawful force and the pattern of concealment – Barriers to accountability for the killings at Marikana,” which noted concerns about the emerging evidence. Full accountability must take place for violations of the right to life, including:

    • The decision taken by senior police officials on the night of 15 August 2012 to disarm, disperse and arrest the protesters, which did not arise from any escalation of threat to life. The decision was taken despite the anticipation of possible loss of life and injury. It led to the deployment of tactical units armed with live ammunition and semi-automatic rifles. A senior member of the Commission’s evidence leader team stated in November 2014 that “the decision was reckless and driven by improper political motives”. 

     • Police fired more than 600 live rounds during the operation, which state and independent pathologists found resulted in the deaths of 34 protesters as a result of gunshot wounds – in most cases to the head or upper body.

    •One man, Mr Gwelani, was fleeing when he was shot in the head with a bullet fired from a semi-automatic rifle from a distance of 250 metres.

    •One pistol was fired at the police by a striker, but there were no police fatalities during the entire operation.  

    • Police also failed to protect the right to life by not making adequate medical assistance available as well as failing in some cases to provide first aid or similar assistance to persons grievously injured by police action.

    “There is clear and ample evidence that the unlawful decision taken at the secret meeting of senior police officials on 15 August 2012 to disarm and forcibly break up a gathering of striking mine workers at Lonmin platinum mine the next day led to violations of the right to life under both international and domestic law,” said Deprose Muchena.

    The mass fatalities on 16 August 2012 resulting from that unlawful decision clearly prompted the State to launch an investigation as part of its obligation to protect the right to life.

    However this was followed by a systematic attempt by the police authorities to conceal or falsify evidence and to otherwise mislead the Marikana Commission. Such attempts include withholding information about and “loss” of the minutes of the meeting on the night of 15 August 2012, when police decided to disarm, disperse and arrest the protesters.  The most persistent and striking failure to co-operate with the Commission on this issue came from the National Commissioner of Police.

    This conduct raises doubts over whether the Commission’s recommendations will be implemented or if there will be full accountability for human rights violations in Marikana in August 2012.  

    “The South African authorities must ensure full accountability for the killings at Marikana as a first step toward restoring lawful and impartial policing. This is essential to ensure respect for the right to life and other fundamental human rights in South Africa and to assist in the maintenance of peace,” said Deprose Muchena.

    The Commission of Inquiry also heard important evidence concerning the conduct of Lonmin officials. This includes allegations they concealed evidence, failed to implement their obligations to improve the lives of the mine workers and the local community, and to protect its non-striking employees and its security staff, who became targets for reprisals and intimidation by some of the strikers.

    Background

    The Marikana Commission of Inquiry was established by President Jacob Zuma on 23 August 2012 in response to the tragic events near the Lonmin platinum mine in August 2012. Headed by a retired Judge of the Supreme Court of Appeal, Ian Farlam, the commission was tasked with investigating “matters of concern arising out of the incidents at the Lonmin Mine in Marikana from 11 to 16 August”.

    The evidence centred around the killing of 34 men by police on 16 August 2012, most of them striking platinum mine workers from Marikana, and the violent deaths of 10 other people in the preceding days.

    The Marikana Commission commenced its work in October 2012 and had its terms extended until 14 November 2014. The Commissioners were required to submit their report on findings and recommendations by 31 March 2015.

    The commission is constituted under the 1947 Commissions Act. It was given the powers to search premises, secure the attendance of witnesses and compel the production of documents. It also had the power to refer any matter concerning the conduct of specific persons to an appropriate law enforcement agency or other body for prosecution or further investigation.

    For more information or to arrange an interview please contact:
    Elizabeth Berton-Hunter, Media Relations 416-363-9933 ext 332 bberton-hunter@amnesty.ca

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