Open Letter to the African Commission Regarding the Xenophobic Attacks in South Africa 23 April, 2015Dear 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.zaSigned 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 AfricaZimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, ZimbabweThe Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA)Legal Assistance Centre (LAC), NamibiaWomen Advocates’ Research and Documentation Center (WARDC), NigeriaAfrica Legal Aid (AFLA)Coalition for the International Criminal Court (CICC)International Commission of Jurists (ICJ – Kenya)Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR), MalawiCentre for Development of People (CEDEP), MalawiThe Centre for Accountability and Rule of Law (CARL), Sierra LeoneThe Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA)The Children Education Society (CHESO), TanzaniaCoalition Ivoirienne pour la Cour Pénale Internationale (CI CPI), Cote d’IvoireRéseau Equitas Côte d’Ivoire (REQCI), Cote d’IvoireGroupe de Travail sur les Instruments Internationaux (GT2I)International Refugees Rights Initiative (IRRI)Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (FHRI), UgandaThe Institute for Security Studies (ISS)Human Rights First Rwanda Association (HRFRA), RwandaThe Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town, South AfricaSouthern African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (SACCORD), ZambiaInitiative for Civil Liberties (ICL), ZambiaThe Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa (CoRMSA), South AfricaEngender Rights Centre for Justice (ERCJ), ZambiaKenya Legal and Ethical Issues Network on HIV and AIDS (KELIN), KenyaNamibia Women’s Health Network (NWHN), NamibiaCentre for Human Rights Education Advice and Assistance (CHREAA), MalawiThe AIDS and Rights Alliance of Southern Africa (ARASA)Transbantu Association Zambia (TBZ), ZambiaZimbabwe 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 AfricaCentre for Girls and Interaction (CEGI), MalawiAssociação Justiça Paz e Democracia (AJPD), AngolaPan African Positive Women’s Coalition – ZimbabwePan African Positive Women’s Coalition – Southern Africa and Indian Ocean IslandsCentre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS), South AfricaLawyers Forum for Human Rights (LFHR), MalawiCoalition for the Prevention of Unsafe Abortion (COPUA), MalawiLadder for Rural Development (LAFORD), MalawiAssociation of Human Rights Organisations (AHURIO), UgandaSexual Rights Centre (SRC), ZimbabweAssociação de Reintegração dos Jovens/Crianças na Vida Social (SCARJoV), AngolaAssociação, Mulher, Lei e Desenvolvimento (MULEIDE), MozambiqueMatrix Support Group, LesothoAfrican Development and Peace Initiative (ADPI)Paralegal Advisory Service Institute (PASI), MalawiThe AIDS Foundation of South Africa (AFSA), South AfricaBotswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA), BotswanaTreatment Advocacy and Literacy Campaign (TALC), ZambiaSouthern Africa HIV & AIDS Information Dissemination Service (SAfAIDS)Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria (CHR), South AfricaTemba Community Development Services, South AfricaOmunga, AngolaAIDS Legal Network (ALN), South AfricaCommunities’ Initiatives for Holistic Social Advancement (CHISA), MalawiProtection Enfants Sida (PES), Democratic Republic of CongoNdifuna Ukwazi (NU), South AfricaMalawi Network of Religious Leaders Living with or Personally Affected by HIV and AIDS (MANERELA+), MalawiLegal Resources Foundation, ZambiaENDA SantéPanos Institute Southern AfricaSocio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), NigeriaDarfur Women’s Action Group (DWAG), SudanCivil Resource Development and Documentation Centre (CIRDDOC), NigeriaAffirmative Action Initiative for Women (NCAA), NigeriaCoalition of Eastern NGOs (CENGOS), NigeriaNigerian Coalition for the ICC (NCICC), NigeriaLegal Defence and Assistance Project (LEDAP), NigeriaYouth for a Child in Christ (YOCIC), ZimbabweSusceptible Iyanai Chinoda OVC Care and Trust (SICO), ZimbabweCenter for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR), South AfricaRede Moçambicana de Lideres Religiosos Vivendo com HIV e SIDA (MONERELA+), MozambiqueAssociation Africaine de Défense des Droits de l’Homme (ASADHO)Initiative for Social and Economic Rights (ISER), UgandaInternational Alliance on Natural Resources in Africa (IANRA)Africa International Development and Environment in the XXI century (AIDE21)FEMNET – African Women’s Development and Communications NetworkWomen Environmental Programme Nigeria (WEP-Nigeria)Niger Delta Women’s Movement for Peace and Development (NDWPD), NigeriaPositive-Generation, CameroonCivil Society Organizations Network (CSO Network – Kenya)NamRights Inc, NamibiaCollectif Sénégalais des Africaines pour la Promotion de l’Education Relative à l’Environnement (COSAPERE), SénégalCenter for Health, Human rights and Development (CEHURD), UgandaHuman Rights Consultative Committee (HRCC), MalawiCentre for Youth Empowerment and Civic Education (CYECE), MalawiYouth and Society (YAS), MalawiPoverty Reduction Network (PORENET), MozambiqueKhulumani Support Group, South AfricaAfrican Men for Sexual Health and Rights [AMSHeR]Society for International Development (SID)Prévention Information et Lutte contre le SIDA (PILS), MauritiusKenyans for Peace with Truth and Justice (KPTJ), KenyaAmnesty International Senegal (AI Senegal)Section 27, South AfricaMasimanyane Women’s Support Centre, South AfricaGay & Lesbian Network, South AfricaAmnesty International Mali (AI Mali)Equality Now, KenyaCorruption Watch, South AfricaChild Rights Advocacy and Paralegal Aid Centre (CRAPAC), MalawiAfrican Center for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS)Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), ZimbabweMedia Rights Agenda (MRA), NigeriaNational Right to Food, MalawiMalawi Economic Justice Network (MEJN), MalawiMalawi Health Equity (MHEN), MalawiMalawi Network of People Living With HIV/AIDS (MANET+), MalawiChurch and Society Programmes – CCAP Synod of Livingstonia, Nkhoma, Blantyre, Zambia, and HarareCivil and Political Space Platform (CSP Platform), MalawiCentre for Governance and Public Participation (CeGPP), MalawiThe Institute for Political Interaction (IPI), MalawiUkhondo Services Foundation, MalawiWomen’s Rights Advancement and Protection Alternative (WRAPA), NigeriaCivil Society Education Coalition (CSEC), MalawiCentre for Youth and Children Affairs (CEYCA), MalawiDevelopment Dynamics NigeriaInternational Commission of Jurists (ICJ-Africa Programme)Pan African Lawyers Union (PALU)Human Rights Network Uganda (HURINET-U), UgandaSwaziland Lawyers for Human Rights (SLHR), SwazilandOpen Society Foundation for Southern Africa (OSISA)Human Rights Institute of South Africa (HURISA), South AfricaYouth 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.pdfExcerptCorruption 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.