ANC atrocities

Chris Burford cburford at
Fri Feb 2 13:42:32 MST 1996

Leo challenged me politely, but all the more effectively for that,
about the apparent moral equivalence I might have implied between 
the ANC and Shining Path.

I do indeed think they are qualitatively different but they are not 
on different planets. I know very little about Shining Path but 
if we are to be dialectical there must be good things about Shining
Path as well as bad things about the ANC. 

As someone who has often attended meetings addressed by the ANC
and was proud to sing Nkosi Sikeleli in the South African Embassy
in London on the day of the inauguration of Nelson Mandela as 
President, I feel I should not brush off the points below.

In a revolutionary situation against a vicious enemy what do you
do? How do you avoid anyone making mistakes? What do you do when 
your organisation has been penetrated by spies, as often happened.

How do you keep up morale in a camp hundreds of miles away from the 
front. How do you stop people drinking too much alcohol and 
being violent? How do you stop people who have been tortured 
themselves, tragically acting brutally to others. 

The worst violence is often committed informally by poorly 
trained people. I know of no society that can treat 
hated captives humanely without careful codes and outside 

Perhaps a lesson from the events below is that the international 
funders, of the ANC camps, should have insisted on some 
accountability. But how?

Perhaps we should now ask fighters in Peru of whatever 
organisation not how do you ensure there is never an 
atrocity, but how do you minimise the risk of an atrocity?

In that sense, unless Leo would claim that *all* members of 
Shining Path are by definition wrong, there is some 
similarity in the problem. 

Chris B

/* Written  4:55 PM  Dec  3, 1992 by igc:hnaylor in gn:ai.general */
/* ---------- "SOUTH AFRICA: torture in ANC camps" ---------- */
Amnesty International
International Secretariat
1 Easton Street
London WC1X 8DJ
United Kingdom



Prisoners held by the African National Congress (ANC) were ill-treated,
tortured and summarily executed over more than a decade in several African
countries Amnesty International said today. 

      The findings of Amnesty International's independent research are
documented in a report issued today, and are similar to those of an internal
ANC commission of inquiry report published in November.  

      The commission recommended that those responsible for abuses be
identified and barred from holding positions of authority in future.  Amnesty
International endorses this recommendation and has also written to the
governments of several African countries, asking them to investigate reports
of abuse by the ANC with the aim of bringing those responsible to justice.

      The issue of accountability for human rights abuses is on the political
agenda in South Africa today, with the government enacting an indemnity law in
November which could give immunity to security force members who have
committed grave human rights violations.  The ANC and others have opposed such
an amnesty; however, those within the ANC who have committed abuses should not
be amnestied by default.

      Amnesty International's report documents abuses which took place for
more than a decade in ANC camps in several countries, notably Angola, Zambia,
Tanzania and Uganda.  Although the victims of these abuses were often labelled
as South African government spies, most appear to have been genuine ANC
members, mainly in the organization's military wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK),
Spear of the Nation.  They were imprisoned because they raised grievances in
the ANC camps or because of differences over policy.  However, Amnesty
International said that torture or executions cannot be justified in any

      At houses run by ANC security officials in Zambia, prisoners were beaten
with implements including bicycle chains and rubber hoses.  Prisoners taken to
an ANC farm on the Lusaka-Livingstone road have described being made to dig
their own graves and climb into them.  One alleged that the hole was filled in
up to his neck and that a plastic bag was placed over his head until he lost

      Prisoners in the Quatro prison camp in northern Angola were routinely
beaten, humiliated and forced to do hard labour.  In May 1984, at Pango camp
in Angola, MK members who had taken part in a mutiny were tied to trees,
beaten, whipped and had molten plastic dripped on their naked bodies.  Seven
prisoners were summarily executed by firing squad.  Amnesty International
names several prisoners in various camps who are reported to have died from
torture or ill-treatment or were victims of summary executions.

      Amnesty International welcomes the recommendations of the ANC's
commission, including the proposal to set up a fully independent body to carry
out further investigations into alleged abuses.  One of the weaknesses of the
recent commission was that two out of its three members were also members of
the ANC and it was thus not seen to be impartial.  Amnesty International,
which sent an observer to part of the commission's proceedings, also
criticizes serious gaps in its terms of reference.  It could not inquire into
executions and "disappearances" of prisoners, nor was it asked to establish
which ANC officials were responsible for abuses.

      In its report Amnesty International commends ANC president Nelson
Mandela for agreeing to implement the main recommendations of the ANC
commission of inquiry.  The report criticizes measures, such as the South
African Government's recent indemnity law, which aim to give immunity to those
responsible for human rights abuses.

      "The ANC and the South African Government are both party to a process of
negotiation which will at some point see the emergence of a new constitution
protecting the fundamental rights of South African citizens." said Amnesty
International. "However, if those who have violated such rights in the past
through torture and political killings are allowed to enjoy impunity for their
actions then the rule of law and future constitutional order will rest on a
very fragile basis."

 *     South Africa: Torture, ill-treatment and executions in African National
Congress camps, AI Index: AFR 53/27/92, December 1992

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