Torture and Trafficking Acts Signed into Law

The Presidency

Two acts that seek to address both the torture and trafficking of people have been signed into law.

The Prevention and Combating of Torture of Persons Bill and the Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons Bill were signed by president Zuma.

The Prevention and Combating of Torture of Persons Act aims to:

•    Give effect to South Africa’s obligations in terms of the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment;
•    Recognise the offence of torture of persons; and
•    Prevent and combat the torture of persons within or across the borders of South Africa.

The convention calls on states to put in place effective measures to prevent torture in their respective territories.

The convention also seeks to prevent people from being transported from a particular country to face torture in another.

The convention came into force in 1987.

The legislation promotes the universal respect for human rights.

The definition of torture does not include pain or suffering as caused by legal sanctions.

Torture is not to be tolerated even in a state of war.

A responsibility is placed on the state to create awareness around the prohibition against torture.

The National Assembly passed the bill in November last year.

The NCOP’s select committee on security and constitutional development adopted the bill without amendments towards the end of May.

The Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons Act seeks to give effect to South Africa’s obligations as set out in various international agreements such as the United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons.  The protocol places particular emphasis on women and children.

The legislation brings South African law into line with international standards.

The act flows from an investigation and report conducted and produced by the South African Law Reform Commission on trafficking in persons.

It calls for public awareness campaigns to be put in place designed to prevent and combat human trafficking. Human trafficking becomes a criminal offence.

The act also puts appropriate punitive measures in place. Forcing people into debt bondage is also viewed as a criminal act. Clause seven makes it an offence to use the services of victims of trafficking. Trafficking is described as an international crime.

Carriers transporting people across South Africa’s borders will be guilty of an offence if the victims do not possess valid travel documentation. All individuals that come into contact with people suspected of being trafficked are obliged to report it to the police.

The act also prohibits the prosecution of victims of trafficking. The hope is that victims will act against traffickers as witnesses.

Internet service providers are also required to take whatever measures possible to prevent their services from being used to facilitate human trafficking. Internet addresses involved in trafficking must be reported to the police.

Local courts will have jurisdiction over trafficking cases that occur in other countries.

The law prohibiting the disclosure of personal information falls away in the case of children suspected of being victims of traffickers. Everyone is required to report such incidences to the relevant authorities. Those who do not will be criminally liable.

The act also allows for those convicted of trafficking to be forced to pay compensation to a victim for damages, injuries, both physical and psychological and loss of income, amongst others.

The Prevention and Combating of Torture of Persons Act is now in effect.

The Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons Act will come into effect on a date still to be determined by the president.

Sabinet Cape Town Office

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