Johannesburg, South Africa – As South Africa Friday marks the first anniversary of the Marikana massacre in which 44 striking mine workers were killed in the country’s North-west, Amnesty International has urged the government to ensure that the Commission of Inquiry into the killings does not fail to deliver fair access to justice.
It said in a statement here that nearly a year after the large-scale human rights abuses at Lonmin’s Marikana mine, the vital task of achieving accountability for these abuses is incomplete and at risk.
The Commission of Inquiry, the main official vehicle set up to establish the facts and make recommendations to government, is currently in crisis.
“By anyone’s measure, the outcome of the police operation at Marikana was absolutely catastrophic,” said Noel Kututwa, Amnesty International’s Deputy Programme Director for Africa.
“The long-term consequences for the respect and protection of human rights in South Africa will be severe should the authorities fail in taking all necessary steps to achieve accountability for what happened in Marikana on 16 August 2012,” Kututwa said.
The 34 striking miners were killed in Marikana after police opened fire on them. More than 80 other miners sustained serious injuries. Ten 10 other deaths occurred in the preceding week.
The injured miners – who are direct witnesses to the events of 16 August last year – have withdrawn their participation in the Commission’s proceedings.
The men, who are facing criminal charges arising from those events, withdrew in July because of lack of funds for legal representation. They approached the constitutional court to appeal against this discriminatory access to the Commission’s proceedings.
“Witnesses must have access to legal advice in preparing to give evidence, especially those who are still facing criminal charges, and to do so without fear of reprisals,” said Noel Kututwa.
Amnesty International said the risks of reprisals were underscored by the continuing social conflict, atmosphere of fear and killings which are still occurring in the Marikana area.
It urged the government to ensure that the Commission can carry out its work on a completely level playing field, supporting the full participation of all parties.
The police operation in Marikana on 16 August 2012 was apparently intended to disperse and arrest those taking part in a strike at Lonmin’s Marikana mine.