Torture: Africa's dirty little secret
Though torture is widespread across Africa, only eight of the 54 countries on the continent have made it a criminal offence.
This is according to the chairman of the African Union's African Commission on Human and People's Rights, Catherine Dupe Atoki. She was speaking at a Johannesburg press conference yesterday at which she said there was a lack of political will in Africa to tackle the problem.
South Africa, she said, was no exception - it too does not list torture as a criminal offence.
Fourteen years ago, South Africa ratified the UN Convention Against Torture, promising to criminalise torture. This has not happened.
Monica Bandeira, of the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation said that it was "difficult to work out the prevalence [of torture] because it is not a crime on its own".
She said that, because torture could be regarded as assault or grievous bodily harm, it was difficult to ascertain its incidence.
SA Human Rights Commission chairman Lawrence Mushwana said though torture by the police was widespread, the one " glimmer of hope" was the Prevention and Combating of Torture of Persons Bill currently before parliament.
If the bill is passed, it will make torture a crime.
"You need to be able to name a problem because when you can name a problem you are able to tackle it," said University of Western Cape researcher Clare Ballard.
Department of Justice spokesman Mthunzi Mhaga said "though torture is not a criminal offence, where there is torture it does not go unpunished".
He said the Bill of Rights prohibited torture.
Public hearings on the bill will be held on September 4.