In their words: Accountability for police brutality

2016-02-04

Prominent human rights lawyer George Bizos relied on ISS expertise to inform his marathon cross-examination of the National Commissioner of the South African Police Service (SAPS), Riah Phiyega, at the Marikana Commission of Inquiry.

The Marikana Commission probed the August 2012 police shooting of protesters during a strike at Lonmin’s Marikana platinum mine. The tragic event led to 34 deaths and 78 serious injuries, and is the most serious police killing of the post-apartheid era.

‘In preparing our cross-examination of the National Commissioner, the research of Gareth Newham and other ISS researchers significantly informed our understanding of the levels of police brutality in our society and the increasing lack of accountability within the SAPS,’ Bizos said.

As part of his cross-examination of the National Commissioner, Bizos introduced into evidence an ISS analysis of government data that demonstrates how increased police brutality and weak police accountability were negatively affecting police relationships with communities.

A veteran anti-apartheid campaigner, Bizos represented Nelson Mandela and his co-accused at the Rivonia treason trial in the 1960s.

He argued that the conduct of the police at Marikana was unlawful and in breach of SAPS Standing Orders, South Africa’s legislation and the constitution. He said the SAPS used excessive lethal force, and their response was grossly disproportionate to any threat that they faced.

ISS researchers significantly informed our understanding of police brutality and the increasing lack of accountability in the SAPS
– George Bizos, Human rights lawyer, South Africa

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