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Judge orders British security company to release report on prisoner abuse in Bloemfontein

British security company G4S must release a report on the alleged torture of inmates by prison personnel at Mangaung Correctional Centre in Bloemfontein.

This after the Centre for Applied Legal Studies was given access to an investigative report conducted by the Department of Correctional Services in 2014.

On Friday, Judge Pierre Rabie gave an order in the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria that compels G4S and the justice and correctional services minister to hand over the report to it within 15 days, GroundUp reported.

The centre first requested the results of the investigation under a Promotion of Access to Information application that was refused by the department and then dismissed by the minister upon appeal. Judge Rabie declared this refusal unlawful and invalid.

The incidents allegedly occurred in 2013 when the prison was under the control of the Bloemfontein Corrections Centre (BCC), with daily operations being subcontracted to G4S.

The judgment states the allegations in the report could be a violation of the contract between the department and private companies as well as contravening the Constitution and international law “on conditions of detention and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and torture”.

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During the lengthy court case, G4S moved to supply only a redacted version of the report, particularly one protecting “identifying markers” of prison employees and inmates as well as details about the prison’s structure.

The order overrides this, compelling the company to supply the full report. It also includes a response from BCC to the report.

While South Africa has been a signatory to international torture conventions for decades, it has only been recognised as a specific criminal offence, separate from assault, since anti-torture legislation was only passed in 2013. No significant cases have led to convictions.

The centre’s attorney, Sithuthukile Mkhize, said after the order was handed down the report would have to be analysed first, but further legal action, including torture allegations, was possible.

“My view is that privately run prisons in South Africa clearly don’t work,” Mkhize said, explaining she hoped seeing the report would lead to greater accountability by the government and other parties involved.

The department, minister and G4S were ordered to pay costs.

Comment from G4S and the department will be added to this article once received.

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