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Thabo Mbeki must take direct responsibility for the international human rights and criminal justice fiasco surrounding the recent visit of Mengistu Haile Mariam to South Africa. He cannot embroider further on the behaviour this week of his Office who referred all questions to the Department of Foreign Affairs (who were kept in the dark by its Minister), and the behaviour of his spokesperson who bluntly refused to answer questions on this issue. It is time for Mr. Mbeki to irrevocably prove his, and his government’s, commitment to human rights.

Roelf Meyer, Deputy President of the UDM, speaking from Belfast in Northern Ireland where he is involved with the peace-talks, has challenged Mr. Mbeki and the government to:

  •             Publicly apologise to the international community for the bureaucratic bungling and intransigence displayed in the past weeks. Specific apologies should be tendered for the disdain with which the Ministers of Justice and Foreign Affairs handled the requests of the organisation, Human Rights Watch, who had already in November requested in writing that the Mengistu-issue should be dealt with.

  •            Recognising the complaints lodged with the Director of Public Prosecutions this week by human rights organisations, gives us the assurance that Mengistu will not be allowed to enter the country again. Mengistu has already indicated that he may do so. If he is allowed back Mr. Mbeki must assure us that Mengistu will be arrested for extradition and prosecution. In this regard the UDM is of the opinion that the President can indeed authorise the arrest and extradition in terms of the International Criminal Justice Cooperation Act. Such an extradition need not be to Ethiopia, but rather a neutral country where international monitors can ensure that a fair trail takes place.

  •             Act decisively early in the new year to ensure that South Africa urgently ratifies the International Criminal Court Statute in Parliament. South Africa is already a signatory of the Statute to create a International Criminal Court in Den Hague, but the South Africa Parliament is yet to ratify this Statute. The Statute can only become active after 60 countries have ratified it.

Decisive actions, such as these, will prove that South Africa is serious about human rights and is even willing to take the lead internationally as far as this is concerned. A refusal to take decisive action can only cause South Africa irreparable harm, and will undo the brilliant diplomatic activities of people like Nelson Mandela.

An example of the international damage already done to our image with this fiasco is that Pres Mbeki cannot pressurise Zimbabwe, where Mengistu now finds himself, because South Africa itself failed to act when he visited South Africa.

Roelf Meyer, MP
UDM Deputy President

Belfast, Northern Ireland
09 December 1999

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