Fred Van der Vyfer turns to the UN for help

By Kirstin Buick
23 November 2013

Fred van der Vyver – the 31-year-old actuary who was found not guilty of murdering his then-girlfriend, Inge Lotz, in November 2007 after a much-publicised 10-month trial – has approached the United Nation’s Human Rights Commission to get the South African government to pay him compensation.

Fred van der Vyver outside the Western Cape High Court in Cape Town, South Africa on 25 November 2010. Van der Vyver was accused of Inge Lotz's murder in 2005, but has since been acquitted. Van der Vyver has lodged a civil suit of R46 million against the police for malicious prosecution. In 2011 judge Anton Veldhuizen found he was maliciously prosecuted and awarded him R46 million. But this year the Appeal Court in Bloemfontein overturned the finding. In May this year the Constitutional Court also blocked Van der Vyfer’s bid to have his legal costs paid by the state. Now Ryan Tutt, a lawyer with the Brian Lowe legal firm in Cape Town, confirmed he and Van der Vyfer’s former legal representative, advocate Dup de Bruyn, lodged a complaint with the United Nations’ Human Rights Commission at the beginning of November.  “Fred laid an individual complaint with the Human Rights Commission of the United Nations under the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,” Tutt says. He adds Van der Vyfer declined to comment and can’t reveal more details of the content of the complaint.  De Bruyn wouldn’t comment on the issue because the case is sub judicae.  These new developments come in the midst of an appeal by Inge’s father, Professor Jan Lotz, to the director of public prosecutions to bring Fred back as a possible suspect in his daughter’s murder. The UN’s website states that anyone living in a country that belongs to the organisation and subscribes to its rules and regulations (as South Africa does) can lay such a complaint. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights covers a wide range of rights, such as the right to life, the right to a fair trial, freedom of speech, equality before the law and the combating of discrimination.  Tutt says he hasn’t received confirmation the complaint has been received and doesn’t know how long it will be before he’s informed whether the complaint will be heard and when.  Given the large number of complaints to be heard by the committee, it can take years before the committee – a panel of 18 experts who meet three times a year – deals with the complaint and makes a final decision.  When a final decision has been taken on a complaint there is no right of appeal against it and as a rule the ruling is final. What then happens in the case depends on the ruling. If the committee decides there has been a transgression by a state official, the state is given a chance to provide information – within a certain period – on what steps will be taken to question the finding and recommendations. 

The committee’s findings contain recommendations to the state but they’re not legally binding.

- Almari Wessels

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