Open Letter to the African Commission Regarding the Xenophobic Attacks in South Africa 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[i] 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 Kaajalr@salc.org.za Signed by the following concerned Civil Society Organisations based in and working on human rights issues on the African continent: Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR – South Africa) SADC Lawyers Association (SADC LA) Legal Resources Centre (LRC), South Africa Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, Zimbabwe The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Legal Assistance Centre (LAC), Namibia Women Advocates’ Research and Documentation Center (WARDC), Nigeria Africa Legal Aid (AFLA) Coalition for the International Criminal Court (CICC) International Commission of Jurists (ICJ – Kenya) Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR), Malawi Centre for Development of People (CEDEP), Malawi The Centre for Accountability and Rule of Law (CARL), Sierra Leone The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) The Children Education Society (CHESO), Tanzania Coalition Ivoirienne pour la Cour Pénale Internationale (CI CPI), Cote d’Ivoire Réseau Equitas Côte d’Ivoire (REQCI), Cote d’Ivoire Groupe de Travail sur les Instruments Internationaux (GT2I) International Refugees Rights Initiative (IRRI) Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (FHRI), Uganda The Institute for Security Studies (ISS) Human Rights First Rwanda Association (HRFRA), Rwanda The Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town, South Africa Southern African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (SACCORD), Zambia Initiative for Civil Liberties (ICL), Zambia The Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa (CoRMSA), South Africa Engender Rights Centre for Justice (ERCJ), Zambia Kenya Legal and Ethical Issues Network on HIV and AIDS (KELIN), Kenya Namibia Women’s Health Network (NWHN), Namibia Centre for Human Rights Education Advice and Assistance (CHREAA), Malawi The AIDS and Rights Alliance of Southern Africa (ARASA) Transbantu Association Zambia (TBZ), Zambia Zimbabwe Association for Crime Prevention and Rehabilitation of the Offender (ZACRO) Women and Law in Southern Africa, Mozambique (WLSA – Mozambique) Women and Law in Southern Africa, Zimbabwe (WLSA – Zimbabwe) Tshwaranang Legal Advocacy Centre (TLAC), South Africa Centre for Girls and Interaction (CEGI), Malawi Associação Justiça Paz e Democracia (AJPD), Angola Pan African Positive Women’s Coalition – Zimbabwe Pan African Positive Women’s Coalition – Southern Africa and Indian Ocean Islands Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS), South Africa Lawyers Forum for Human Rights (LFHR), Malawi Coalition for the Prevention of Unsafe Abortion (COPUA), Malawi Ladder for Rural Development (LAFORD), Malawi Association of Human Rights Organisations (AHURIO), Uganda Sexual Rights Centre (SRC), Zimbabwe Associação de Reintegração dos Jovens/Crianças na Vida Social (SCARJoV), Angola Associação, Mulher, Lei e Desenvolvimento (MULEIDE), Mozambique Matrix Support Group, Lesotho African Development and Peace Initiative (ADPI) Paralegal Advisory Service Institute (PASI), Malawi The AIDS Foundation of South Africa (AFSA), South Africa Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA), Botswana Treatment Advocacy and Literacy Campaign (TALC), Zambia Southern Africa HIV & AIDS Information Dissemination Service (SAfAIDS) Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria (CHR), South Africa Temba Community Development Services, South Africa Omunga, Angola AIDS Legal Network (ALN), South Africa Communities’ Initiatives for Holistic Social Advancement (CHISA), Malawi Protection Enfants Sida (PES), Democratic Republic of Congo Ndifuna Ukwazi (NU), South Africa Malawi Network of Religious Leaders Living with or Personally Affected by HIV and AIDS (MANERELA+), Malawi Legal Resources Foundation, Zambia ENDA Santé Panos Institute Southern Africa Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), Nigeria Darfur Women’s Action Group (DWAG), Sudan Civil Resource Development and Documentation Centre (CIRDDOC), Nigeria Affirmative Action Initiative for Women (NCAA), Nigeria Coalition of Eastern NGOs (CENGOS), Nigeria Nigerian Coalition for the ICC (NCICC), Nigeria Legal Defence and Assistance Project (LEDAP), Nigeria Youth for a Child in Christ (YOCIC), Zimbabwe Susceptible Iyanai Chinoda OVC Care and Trust (SICO), Zimbabwe Center for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR), South Africa Rede Moçambicana de Lideres Religiosos Vivendo com HIV e SIDA (MONERELA+), Mozambique Association Africaine de Défense des Droits de l’Homme (ASADHO) Initiative for Social and Economic Rights (ISER), Uganda International Alliance on Natural Resources in Africa (IANRA) Africa International Development and Environment in the XXI century (AIDE21) FEMNET – African Women’s Development and Communications Network Women Environmental Programme Nigeria (WEP-Nigeria) Niger Delta Women’s Movement for Peace and Development (NDWPD), Nigeria Positive-Generation, Cameroon Civil Society Organizations Network (CSO Network – Kenya) NamRights Inc, Namibia Collectif Sénégalais des Africaines pour la Promotion de l’Education Relative à l’Environnement (COSAPERE), Sénégal Center for Health, Human rights and Development (CEHURD), Uganda Human Rights Consultative Committee (HRCC), Malawi Centre for Youth Empowerment and Civic Education (CYECE), Malawi Youth and Society (YAS), Malawi Poverty Reduction Network (PORENET), Mozambique Khulumani Support Group, South Africa African Men for Sexual Health and Rights [AMSHeR] Society for International Development (SID) Prévention Information et Lutte contre le SIDA (PILS), Mauritius Kenyans for Peace with Truth and Justice (KPTJ), Kenya Amnesty International Senegal (AI Senegal) Section 27, South Africa Masimanyane Women’s Support Centre, South Africa Gay & Lesbian Network, South Africa Amnesty International Mali (AI Mali) Equality Now, Kenya Corruption Watch, South Africa Child Rights Advocacy and Paralegal Aid Centre (CRAPAC), Malawi African Center for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS) Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), Zimbabwe Media Rights Agenda (MRA), Nigeria National Right to Food, Malawi Malawi Economic Justice Network (MEJN), Malawi Malawi Health Equity (MHEN), Malawi Malawi Network of People Living With HIV/AIDS (MANET+), Malawi Church and Society Programmes – CCAP Synod of Livingstonia, Nkhoma, Blantyre, Zambia, and Harare Civil and Political Space Platform (CSP Platform), Malawi Centre for Governance and Public Participation (CeGPP), Malawi The Institute for Political Interaction (IPI), Malawi Ukhondo Services Foundation, Malawi Women’s Rights Advancement and Protection Alternative (WRAPA), Nigeria Civil Society Education Coalition (CSEC), Malawi Centre for Youth and Children Affairs (CEYCA), Malawi Development Dynamics Nigeria International Commission of Jurists (ICJ-Africa Programme) Pan African Lawyers Union (PALU) Human Rights Network Uganda (HURINET-U), Uganda Swaziland Lawyers for Human Rights (SLHR), Swaziland Open Society Foundation for Southern Africa (OSISA) Human Rights Institute of South Africa (HURISA), South Africa Youth Engage from Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe [i] Report on the SAHRC Investigation into Issues of Rule of Law, Justice and Impunity arising out of the 2008 Public Violence against Non-Nationals, http://www.sahrc.org.za/home/21/files/Reports/Non%20Nationals%20Attacks%20Report_1-50_2008.pdf Excerpt Corruption Watch is one of 129 civil society organisations, from all over the African continent, which have signed an open letter to the African Commission, calling for it to urge 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.