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Report on torture claims in G4S-run prison should be made public

- Lee-Anne Bruce

CALS will appear in the High Court on Monday arguing for the release of a report on investigations into claims of torture at the privately run Mangaung prison

CALS is due to appear in the High Court on Monday to argue for the release of a report held by the Department of Correctional Services. The report follows a ten month investigation into claims of torture and other incidents which took place at Mangaung Correctional Centre while it was under the control of private security companies. The case raises important questions around the right of access to information and the consequences of outsourcing constitutional obligations to the private sector.

In late 2013, CALS became aware of a number of reports made public by the Wits Justice Project that people incarcerated at Mangaung Correctional Centre had been tortured by security personnel. At the time, Mangaung was being run by British security company G4S as part of a public private partnership. Following these reports and a number of other serious incidents at Mangaung, the Department of Correctional Services (DCS) took control of the prison and began an investigation. Within ten months, DCS had handed control back to G4S. It remains one of the largest privately run prisons in the world.

In August 2014, CALS made a request to access information related to the DCS investigation using the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA). DCS failed to respond to the initial request, which is deemed a refusal under PAIA, and later dismissed our internal appeal. CALS therefore approached the High Court in early 2015 in an attempt to overturn this decision and gain access to the investigative report. Since then, the matter has suffered a number of delays with G4S asking to be joined to the litigation, failing to file answering papers on time despite a court order and launching an application to have the proceedings closed to the public. While the application was firmly dismissed by the Court, it has had the effect of frustrating the legal process.

More than five years after submitting our initial access to information request, the matter will finally be heard in the High Court. Barring any further delays, CALS will appear on 2 December 2019 to argue that it is in the public interest for documents related to the investigation into claims of torture and breach of contract to be disclosed.

"Opposing the release of the report begs the question of what issues either the Department or G4S are trying to keep hidden,” says Sithuthukile Mkhize. “The PAIA process is obviously flawed if these powerful entities can cause years’ worth of delays before a matter is even heard by the Court. The process is costly, time-consuming and frustrates people trying to exercise their constitutional rights."

"Incarcerated people are a forgotten population," says Palesa Madi. "They still have rights and we cannot ignore such serious reports of torture against them. Access to information unlocks other rights and allows us to take the first steps towards holding both government and the private sector accountable for any potential violations."

Read our heads of argument here.

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