NPA to set up specialist unit to probe, prosecute apartheid-era atrocity crimes

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Shamila Batohi.
Shamila Batohi.
  • The NPA is in the process of setting up a specialist unit to investigate and prosecute apartheid-era crimes.
  • The Hawks have created a specialist team of detectives for such cases.
  • Shamila Batohi says time is not on their side and they have a small window to ensure accountability.

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and the Hawks are bolstering resources to go after those responsible for apartheid-era atrocity crimes in the 1960s.

In a joint statement on Sunday, the crime fighting bodies said the NPA was in the process of setting up a specialist unit to investigate and prosecute these crimes.

The NPA would appoint former experienced prosecutors in offices which required additional capacity, while a "dedicated national office capacity will provide specialised advice, coordination, and monitoring and support".

READ | Ahmed Timol murder: Apartheid cop's application for permanent stay of prosecution fails

The Hawks, meanwhile, had created a dedicated detective team of 34 "competent and highly skilled" former police officials to assign to such cases.

They were appointed from 1 April on a contractual basis of three years.

They said:

The investigation of these cases that were being conducted by the fulltime Hawks members with multiple case dockets on hand, is now taken over by these dedicated and specialised teams, which is aligned to the regionalised approach adopted by the NPA. Our collective efforts are starting to pay off and a further 59 cases have been identified.

On Monday, the Supreme Court of Appeal dismissed apartheid cop Joao Rodrigues' application for a permanent stay of prosecution for the murder of anti-apartheid activist, Ahmed Timol.

The bodies said the judgment bolstered their determination and commitment to revive investigations and initiate prosecutions.

"The NPA acknowledges that the unmerited delay of prosecutions of these cases amounts to the denial of justice to the victims of apartheid era atrocities."

National Director of Public Prosecutions Shamila Batohi had transferred Truth and Reconciliation Commission cases to the relevant Directors of Prosecutions, in the applicable regions where the crimes were committed.

READ | Apartheid killers must face the music

"This approach increased the number of experienced prosecutors available to handle these complex cases. As a result, the number of cases has increased from four to 53 over the past 12 months."

The inquests into the deaths in detention of Neil Aggett and Ernest Dipale, which were reopened, were at an advanced stage, according to the statement.

The NPA had also obtained ministerial approval to open another inquest. Further details were not provided on that inquest.

The two bodies said health conditions and circumstances of the witnesses and suspects, together with the nature of available evidence, further complicated the investigation and prosecution of these cases.

"The challenges in investigating these cases cannot be underestimated."

Batohi said: "Time is not in our side. We have a small window to address this; loved ones need to see justice being done; and justice will not be served until we act decisively against those that the NPA was once powerless to hold to account."

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