South Africa’s law enforcement officials should refrain from using brute force against refugees protesting xenophobic threats in Cape Town, a rights group said on Thursday, 31 October 2019.
The New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) called on South African police to respect the rights of all human beings under their security watch and protection.
The HRW’s calls were in response to the violent scenes that took place in Cape Town on Wednesday, 30 October 2019, when police evicted African asylum seekers who had camped outside the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ (UNHCR) complex for the past three weeks, demanding travel documents to leave South Africa to seek safety elsewhere.
HRW Southern Africa director, Dewa Mavhinga, said the brutality and excessive use of force on the protestors by the police was not justified.
“It is important for South Africa, as a leader in human rights, to show and demonstrate respect for human rights – including those of protestors, particularly women with young children, who we saw being brutalised as the police broke up the protest in Cape Town,” Mavhinga said.
He added: “Police brutality and excessive use of force is never justifiable. South Africa needs to demonstrate respect for human rights. When there is this public demonstration of disregard for the rights of protesters, then it sullies the image of South Africa.”
The African refugees are demanding travel documents to leave South Africa because their local neighbours in the townships have been threatening to kill them if they do not leave the country for their countries of origin.
In their efforts to run away from these threats, the African refugees decided to approach the UNHCR for assistance.
The latter, however, has not been forthcoming, insisting the refugees’ demand was not a solution to their demands.