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'There are no more excuses'

A High Court decision that reversed NPA policies creating a "second amnesty" for apartheid crimes has been lauded by NGOs on Saturday."There are no more excuses. After so many years of delay victims deserve their day in court," said Marje Jobson of the Khulumani Support Group.

On Friday, the Pretoria High Court declared certain National Prosecution Authority amendents unconstitutional.

The amendments, adopted in 2005, provided new criteria under which the National Director of Public Prosecutions could elect not to prosecute apartheid-era crimes, even when there was ample evidence to do so.

Further, any arrangements the NDPP made with alledged perpetrators would occur "behind closed doors" without disclosure to the victims' families.

At the time, President Thabo Mbeki "claimed that the new policy would not be a re-run of the TRC truth-for-amnesty process, but would instead be a way for those instead be a way for those who did not participate in the TRC process to 'co-operate in unearthing the truth' in exchange for prosecutorial leniency".

Political crimes

The court's ruling this week now means that political crimes must be treated like other crimes.

"Crimes are not investigated by the victims. It is the responsibility of the police and prosecution authority to ensure that the cases are properly investigated and prosecuted," said the court.

The court was ruling on Friday after a suit was brought to it by the widows of the "Craddock Four" and the sister of Nokuthula Simelane.

The Craddock Four are believed to have been killed by South African authorities in 1985. Nokuthula Simelane disappeared in 1983 after she was arrested by the Special Branch.

Jobson said on Saturday that the ruling meant: "There is today no longer any impediment to such prosecutions. There is nothing standing in the way of the prosecution authority."

Hugo van der Merwe of the Centre for the Study of Violence told the SABC on Saturday: "The court's finding is that the state has an obligation to prosecute.

"That the TRC has run its course and there's a time when we have to see justice."

When it concluded, the TRC gave a list of over 300 names to the NPA as possible candidates for prosecution.

Only a handful of these have been acted upon.


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