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Timol case must be just the start …

Publish date: 13 November 2017
Issue Number: 751
Diary: IBA Legalbrief Africa
Category: General

Justice emerged victorious with the recent ruling by Gauteng High Court (Pretoria) Judge Billy Mothle that Ahmed Timol – who died after ‘falling’ from the 10th floor of John Vorster Square police building in Johannesburg – was murdered in 1971 by security branch personnel, who first systematically tortured him and then pushed him to his death. ‘Although the perpetrators in the Timol case have not yet been prosecuted, the justice system, as the moral centre of our democracy, has unequivocally made its position known – that such a prosecution must be pursued for justice to be done and for the family to experience meaningful closure.’ In an analysis on the Mail & Guardian Online site, the University of Pretoria’s Ahmed Riaz Mohamed argues that if justice aims to restore balance, then allowing injustices to be perpetuated amounts to the continual destabilisation and unsettling of victims. ‘Victims of apartheid-era crimes and their families continue to suffer the emotional burden of the unfinished business of trauma, which – through lack of action – is condoned and allowed by the state,’ he says. He adds while the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was an attempt to facilitate the process of finding language for victims of gross human rights violations, perpetrators who did not come forward were never taken to task because prosecutions were not undertaken. ‘Those who offered even partial disclosure were given amnesty for their crimes, despite wholly unsatisfactory engagement with the TRC.’ He says the vast majority of perpetrators of apartheid-era human rights violations are free to continue with their lives, unencumbered and devoid of accountability. ‘The re-opening of the inquest into Timol’s death by his family is yet another example of the need to reclaim and to finish what has for too long remained unfinished. It is an attempt to take back what has been held in the shadows, situating the power and control firmly in the hands of the perpetrator, while keeping the victims in a state of perpetual helplessness and – in many ways – at the mercy of the perpetrator. This is an untenable state of affairs and is an injustice against victims of trauma that cannot be accepted.’

Full analysis on the Mail & Guardian Online site