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South Africa: former political prisoners salute ICRC

15-02-1995 News Release 7

The ICRC's detention work in South Africa, spanning more than thirty years, was publicly acknowledged during a commemorative reunion of former political prisoners last weekend (11-12 February). Under the auspices of a recently created South African organization, Peace Visions, some 1,200 ex-prisoners gathered in Cape Town for a visit to Robben Island, site of the notorious prison a few kilometres off the coast, where many of them had been detained for years. There they were addressed by President Nelson Mandela and other leaders of the anti-apartheid struggle.

The ICRC was invited in recognition of its visits to prisoners in South Africa since 1963. Leading the ICRC representatives was Committee member Jacques Moreillon who, as a delegate during the 1970s, made a number of visits to South African jails.

Later, at a conference to discuss the prisoners'experiences and future uses for Robben Island, Namibia's Minister of Mines and Energy, Mr Toivuya Toivu, himself a former detainee, paid tribute to the ICRC for its work in improving prison conditions.

The ICRC is still active in South Africa, visiting prisoners and people held in police cells and, in conjunction with the South African Red Cross Society, assisting victims of political violence.