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  • Written by  Independent Online
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Victims launch court bid against TRC

Of all the people HF Verwoerd might have imagined apartheid victims taking to court, Desmond Tutu and top ANC leaders would surely be the unlikeliest. But that's exactly what happened on Wednesday when the Khulumani support group of victims of gross human rights violations filed an application with the Cape High Court.

Of all the people HF Verwoerd might have imagined apartheid victims taking to court, Desmond Tutu and top ANC leaders would surely be the unlikeliest.

But that's exactly what happened on Wednesday when the Khulumani support group of victims of gross human rights violations filed an application with the Cape High Court.

The victims are demanding access to information held by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). They claim that persistent attempts to get access to the state's draft reparations policy have been blocked. They say repeated appeals to Justice Minister Penuell Maduna to see the draft bill - in the process of being finalised - have been fruitless.

In their application, with Archbishop Tutu, Maduna and President Thabo Mbeki as respondents, the victims said they had exhausted all other remedies.
Maduna has said he is not obligated to give the victims access to work in progress, and that the policy could be finalised only once the final report had been handed to Mbeki.

The TRC report was due to be handed over this month, but the deadline had been extended, and the handover would happen only in August. Tutu, the former TRC chair, said he could not respond to the court challenge until he studied the application.

Allison Tilley of the Open Democracy Advice Centre, which is assisting Khulumani, said Tutu was the first applicant because the TRC was inextricably linked to the victims' problems. We're waiting for a response from the state to our application, which should be brought within five days," Tilley added.
Mbeki is cited as a respondent "in his official capacity by reason only of his interest in the subject matter of the application".

Khulumani official Shirley Gunn said the support group aimed to work for a just reparation policy, and to see that reparations were fairly and timeously implemented. The more than 21 000 victims identified by the TRC have received some interim reparations, but have been waiting five years longer than expected for final reparations.

This was largely due to amnesty deadline extensions.

Last month, Khulumani said it would oppose considerations to extend the amnesty process through presidential pardons and other agreements. The TRC made proposals on various forms of reparations, including a monetary package based on a benchmark amount of R21 700 per victim. The department of justice had been tasked with making a final decision on the issue and implementing the decisions.

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