Tortured Leeuwkop prison inmates sue for R10m

Former and current inmates at Leeuwkop Maximum Correctional Centre are suing the department for alleged torture by prison officials. File Photo: Willem Law.

Former and current inmates at Leeuwkop Maximum Correctional Centre are suing the department for alleged torture by prison officials. File Photo: Willem Law.

Published Aug 11, 2022


Pretoria – A matter of a group of inmates at Leeuwkop Maximum Correctional Centre suing the department and the minister of justice for almost R10 million for alleged torture, was heard at the South Gauteng High Court in Joburg on Thursday.

The five current and former inmates claimed that in August 2014 they sustained injuries at the hands of warders while they were inmates at Leeuwkop.

According to the prisoners, they were brutally tortured, including being stripped naked and electrocuted under water.

They also alleged that they were forced to squat, defecate and do handstands for prolonged periods of time.

They said dogs were set upon them at one point, and they were instructed to lie down while an official walked on their necks and electrocuted their backs.

Four of the five inmates said they were unlawfully placed in solitary confinement, shackled and left without any bedding or medical treatment for the injuries they sustained.

In 2015, the inmates instituted action against the minister of justice and correctional services in his capacity as the employer of officials at Leeuwkop for the extensive physical and psychological injuries and suffering caused by the alleged torture carried out by the officials.

In court papers, the department admitted that prison officials used a certain amount of force against the inmates and admitted that inmates sustained injuries, however, the department said the inmates were exaggerating and the force was not used in the manner they are describing, but the force was “precautionary measures” taken in self-defence.

The department also admitted that one of the inmates was placed in segregation but contended that such segregation was authorised and lawful and it said the other inmate, was “separated,” as a consequence of which the statutory requirements.

Speaking to IOL on Thursday, Nabeelah Mia, penal reform attorney at Lawyers for Human Rights said the matter was the first of its kind in South Africa.

“A successful outcome will be precedent setting and is vital as it requires the court to consider South Africa’s clear, binding international treaty obligations that we are obliged to respect and uphold in respect of protection against torture.

“Most importantly, it is a case that highlights the right to human dignity, the right to freedom and security of person, and the right to redress,” Mia said.

Mia added that the plaintiffs have been waiting for almost eight years to reach this point.

“We hope that this matter will see the beginning of accountability of figures of authority for the crime of torture.

“There can be no end to torture without it being adequately addressed by sanction and adequate redress for victims.

“It is important that a spotlight be shone by the NGO sector and human rights activists upon unlawful conduct in the treatment of prisoners,” Mia said.

She said the matter was postponed to August 19 for closing arguments and would then be reserved for judgment.