Open Letter to the African Commission Regarding the Xenophobic Attacks in South Africa PDF Print E-mail

23 April 2015,

Dear Chair and Commissioners of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights,

We, the undersigned civil society organisations, write to you as concerned organisations and citizens of the African continent to raise concern about the xenophobic attacks currently occurring, mainly against African foreign nationals, in the Republic of South Africa.


We come to you, as the body responsible for the promotion and protection of human rights in the African continent, requesting you to call upon the South African government to take concrete steps to end these attacks, prosecute perpetrators and protect foreign nationals living in their territory from violations of their human rights, including the right to life.

As civil society organisations based in and working on human rights issues on the African continent, we are particularly concerned about the loss of lives, injuries to persons, and damage to private property and the dignity of foreign nationals living in South Africa, which are a grave violation of their rights protected under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the African Charter). The right to life, not to be subjected to torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, and the right to strict equality before the law are non-derogable rights - not dependent on a person’s status in a country.  The status of foreign nationals who are victims of the attacks in South Africa is therefore irrelevant.

We note statements of several governments, including the South African government, to provide assistance for individuals leaving the country. While those who wish to leave should be assisted to do so, the solution to the violence should not be to repatriate all foreign nationals, but to ensure an environment in the country in which their rights are protected. Furthermore, the acts of those carrying out attacks against foreign nationals should not be rewarded by assisting them to achieve their objective of ridding South Africa of foreign nationals. In this regard, we remind all States of the provisions of Article 12 of the African Charter which prohibits the mass expulsion of foreign nationals, including mass expulsion aimed at national groups.

We are further concerned by comments made by persons in positions of authority and influence which may amount to incitement to violence and the role that these play in perpetuating xenophobia. While some statements have been made to condemn the violence, we are concerned that not enough concrete steps are being taken to prevent such attacks, prosecute perpetrators, protect foreign nationals and prevent the mass coerced exodus of foreign nationals from the country.

We, the undersigned organisations, request the African Commission to call upon the government of South Africa to:

-           Protect foreign nationals from further attacks, including by increasing police presence in high-risk areas and immediately implementing conflict resolution initiatives in these areas involving the Department of Home Affairs.

-           Provide urgent humanitarian assistance to internally displaced foreign nationals in the country, including counselling for trauma.

-           Bring perpetrators of violence against foreign nationals to justice. To facilitate such prosecutions the Department of Justice should set up special courts, as was done during the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, to deal with all cases of violence against foreign nationals in a bid to ease the burden on the courts. Information on accessing these courts should be widely disseminated.

-           Investigate and bring to justice the instigators behind the perpetration of the violence.

-           Condemn unequivocally comments by persons in positions of authority and influence which may amount to incitement to violence.

-           Effectively engage the broadest possible South African public, in order to curb and eradicate xenophobia and xenophobic violence. These messages should be repeated, constantly re-iterated and not only heard after crises moments. They should be accessible, in local languages, should be expressed directly to communities, and should involve local leaders.

In 2008, the xenophobic attacks left at least 62 dead, hundreds wounded, and contributed to the displacement of 100,000 people or more. Following those attacks the South African Human Rights Commission prepared a report with their findings and recommendations. We call on you to remind the South African government of this report and call upon the government to immediately implement the recommendations found therein.

In addition, we request you to call upon governments of other countries to ensure steps are taken to prevent reprisals against South African nationals in their territories. International organisations should also assist with humanitarian assistance for internally displaced foreign nationals in South Africa and those returning to their own countries following the attacks.

Submitted by the Southern Africa Litigation Centre

Kaajal Ramjathan-Keogh,

Executive Director

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Signed by the following concerned Civil Society Organisations based in and working on human rights issues on the African continent:

1.         Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR - South Africa)

2.         SADC Lawyers Association (SADC LA)

3.         Legal Resources Centre (LRC), South Africa

4.         Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, Zimbabwe

5.         The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA)

6.         Legal Assistance Centre (LAC), Namibia

7.         Women Advocates’ Research and Documentation Center (WARDC), Nigeria

8.         Africa Legal Aid (AFLA)

9.         Coalition for the International Criminal Court (CICC)

10.        International Commission of Jurists (ICJ – Kenya)

11.        Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR), Malawi

12.        Centre for Development of People (CEDEP), Malawi

13.        The Centre for Accountability and Rule of Law (CARL), Sierra Leone

14.        The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA)

15.        The Children Education Society (CHESO), Tanzania

16.        Coalition Ivoirienne pour la Cour Pénale Internationale (CI CPI), Cote d'Ivoire

17.        Réseau Equitas Côte d'Ivoire (REQCI), Cote d'Ivoire

18.        Groupe de Travail sur les Instruments Internationaux (GT2I)

19.        International Refugees Rights Initiative (IRRI)

20.        Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (FHRI), Uganda

21.        The Institute for Security Studies (ISS)

22.        Human Rights First Rwanda Association (HRFRA), Rwanda

23.        The Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town, South Africa

24.        Southern African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (SACCORD), Zambia

25.        Initiative for Civil Liberties (ICL), Zambia

26.        The Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa (CoRMSA), South Africa

27.        Engender Rights Centre for Justice (ERCJ), Zambia

28.        Kenya Legal and Ethical Issues Network on HIV and AIDS (KELIN), Kenya

29.        Namibia Women’s Health Network (NWHN), Namibia

30.        Centre for Human Rights Education Advice and Assistance (CHREAA), Malawi

31.        The AIDS and Rights Alliance of Southern Africa (ARASA)

32.        Transbantu Association Zambia (TBZ), Zambia

33.        Zimbabwe Association for Crime Prevention and Rehabilitation of the Offender (ZACRO)

34.        Women and Law in Southern Africa, Mozambique (WLSA – Mozambique)

35.        Women and Law in Southern Africa, Zimbabwe (WLSA – Zimbabwe)

36.        Tshwaranang Legal Advocacy Centre (TLAC), South Africa

37.        Centre for Girls and Interaction (CEGI), Malawi

38.        Associação Justiça Paz e Democracia (AJPD), Angola

39.        Pan African Positive Women's Coalition – Zimbabwe

40.        Pan African Positive Women's Coalition - Southern Africa and Indian Ocean Islands

41.        Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS), South Africa

42.        Lawyers Forum for Human Rights (LFHR), Malawi

43.        Coalition for the Prevention of Unsafe Abortion (COPUA), Malawi

44.        Ladder for Rural Development (LAFORD), Malawi

45.        Association of Human Rights Organisations (AHURIO), Uganda

46.        Sexual Rights Centre (SRC), Zimbabwe

47.        Associação de Reintegração dos Jovens/Crianças na Vida Social (SCARJoV), Angola

48.        Associação, Mulher, Lei e Desenvolvimento (MULEIDE), Mozambique

49.        Matrix Support Group, Lesotho

50.        African Development and Peace Initiative (ADPI)

51.        Paralegal Advisory Service Institute (PASI), Malawi

52.        The AIDS Foundation of South Africa (AFSA), South Africa

53.        Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA), Botswana

54.        Treatment Advocacy and Literacy Campaign (TALC), Zambia

55.        Southern Africa HIV & AIDS Information Dissemination Service (SAfAIDS)

56.        Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria (CHR), South Africa

57.        Temba Community Development Services, South Africa

58.        Omunga, Angola

59.        AIDS Legal Network (ALN), South Africa

60.        Communities' Initiatives for Holistic Social Advancement (CHISA), Malawi

61.        Protection Enfants Sida (PES), Democratic Republic of Congo

62.        Ndifuna Ukwazi (NU), South Africa

63.        Malawi Network of Religious Leaders Living with or Personally Affected by HIV and AIDS (MANERELA+), Malawi

64.        Legal Resources Foundation, Zambia

65.        ENDA Santé

66.        Panos Institute Southern Africa

67.        Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), Nigeria

68.        Darfur Women’s Action Group (DWAG), Sudan

69.        Civil Resource Development and Documentation Centre (CIRDDOC), Nigeria

70.        Affirmative Action Initiative for Women (NCAA), Nigeria

71.        Coalition of Eastern NGOs (CENGOS), Nigeria

72.        Nigerian Coalition for the ICC (NCICC), Nigeria

73.        Legal Defence and Assistance Project (LEDAP), Nigeria

74.        Youth for a Child in Christ (YOCIC), Zimbabwe

75.        Susceptible Iyanai Chinoda OVC Care and Trust (SICO), Zimbabwe

76.        Center for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR), South Africa

77.        Rede Moçambicana de Lideres Religiosos Vivendo com HIV e SIDA (MONERELA+), Mozambique

78.        Association Africaine de Défense des Droits de l'Homme (ASADHO)

79.        Initiative for Social and Economic Rights (ISER), Uganda

80.        International Alliance on Natural Resources in Africa (IANRA)

81.        Africa International Development and Environment in the XXI century (AIDE21)

82.        FEMNET - African Women's Development and Communications Network

83.        Women Environmental Programme Nigeria (WEP-Nigeria)

84.        Niger Delta Women’s Movement for Peace and Development (NDWPD), Nigeria

85.        Positive-Generation, Cameroon

86.        Civil Society Organizations Network (CSO Network – Kenya)

87.        NamRights Inc, Namibia

88.        Collectif Sénégalais des Africaines pour la Promotion de l'Education Relative à l'Environnement (COSAPERE), Sénégal

89.        Center for Health, Human rights and Development (CEHURD), Uganda

90.        Human Rights Consultative Committee (HRCC), Malawi

91.        Centre for Youth Empowerment and Civic Education (CYECE), Malawi

92.        Youth and Society (YAS), Malawi

93.        Poverty Reduction Network (PORENET), Mozambique

94.        Khulumani Support Group, South Africa

95.        African Men for Sexual Health and Rights [AMSHeR]

96.        Society for International Development (SID)

97.        Prévention Information et Lutte contre le SIDA (PILS), Mauritius

98.        Kenyans for Peace with Truth and Justice (KPTJ), Kenya

99.        Amnesty International Senegal (AI Senegal)

100.      Section 27, South Africa

101.      Masimanyane Women’s Support Centre, South Africa

102.      Gay & Lesbian Network, South Africa

103.      Amnesty International Mali (AI Mali)

104.      Equality Now, Kenya

105.      Corruption Watch, South Africa

106.      Child Rights Advocacy and Paralegal Aid Centre (CRAPAC), Malawi

107.      African Center for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS)

108.      Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), Zimbabwe

109.      Media Rights Agenda (MRA), Nigeria

110.      National Right to Food, Malawi

111.      Malawi Economic Justice Network (MEJN), Malawi

112.      Malawi Health Equity (MHEN), Malawi

113.      Malawi Network of People Living With HIV/AIDS (MANET+), Malawi

114.      Church and Society Programmes - CCAP Synod of Livingstonia, Nkhoma, Blantyre, Zambia, and Harare

115.      Civil and Political Space Platform (CSP Platform), Malawi

116.      Centre for Governance and Public Participation (CeGPP), Malawi

117.      The Institute for Political Interaction (IPI), Malawi

118.      Ukhondo Services Foundation, Malawi

119.      Women’s Rights Advancement and Protection Alternative (WRAPA), Nigeria

120.      Civil Society Education Coalition (CSEC), Malawi

121.      Centre for Youth and Children Affairs (CEYCA), Malawi

122.      Development Dynamics Nigeria

123.      International Commission of Jurists (ICJ-Africa Programme)

124.      Pan African Lawyers Union (PALU)

125.      Human Rights Network Uganda (HURINET-U), Uganda

126.      Swaziland Lawyers for Human Rights (SLHR), Swaziland

127.      Open Society Foundation for Southern Africa (OSISA)

128.      Human Rights Institute of South Africa (HURISA), South Africa


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