4 March 1991
TO: UA Coordinators
FROM: IS, CMD/RD Africa
Request for Urgent Action. This action is being sent by telex/fax/e-mail for
reasons of speed - several of you will have received this already as a WARN
last Friday; please continue action if you can. The text will be printed for
information and distribution in the weekly mailing, and has therefore been
given the index number AFR 53/11/91.
TLX 15/91 - Fear of Execution
SOUTH AFRICA: Paul BEZUIDENHOUT
The first execution authorized by South Africa's State President F W De Klerk
for more than a year has been scheduled for 5 March.
Paul Bezuidenhout has been given notice that his execution is scheduled
to take place in Pretoria on 5 March 1991. The Minister of Justice informed
parliament on 26 February 1991 that eight prisoners had had their death sentences
commuted but that Paul Bezuidenhout was to be hanged. The Minister said that
Paul Bezuidenhout's execution would take place soon but that the exact date
would not be announced beforehand. On the same day the prisoner received seven
days' notice of execution. Lawyers are seeking a last-minute stay of execution
to enable new psychological and psychiatric evidence to be considered.
Paul Bezuidenhout was convicted on 15 September 1989 in the Supreme Court
(Northern Cape Division) of the murder of a woman and a young child in September
1988. He was sentenced to death and his appeal was dismissed on 28 September
1990. He subsequently submitted a petition to the State President for clemency
but it too was turned down.
This is the first execution to be scheduled in Pretoria since a moratorium
on executions was announced in February 1990. On 27 July the Criminal Law
Amendment Bill came into force, resulting in the abolition of the mandatory
imposition of the death penalty in certain murder cases and providing for
automatic right of appeal and clemency procedures in all capital cases. In
addition the Act created a process whereby some people sentenced to death under
the old law will have their cases reviewed in the light of the new provisions
by a closed panel of nine judges and academic lawyers. The review panel is
apparently willing to consider new evidence regarding mitigating circumstances
in each reviewed case. However, a number of other cases of people sentenced
to death under the old law, including that of Paul Bezuidenhout, reached the
appeal stage after the passage of the new law. His appeal was thus considered
and dismissed by the Appellate Division in light of the new law, but without
the court hearing any new evidence.
At the end of 1990 at least 331 people were under sentence of death at
Pretoria Central Prison, and a further 108 in the nominally-independent
"homelands". Those under sentence of death in the Ciskei "homeland" are
reported to have had their sentences commuted to life imprisonment. One person
was executed in November 1990 in the nominally-independent "homeland" of
Bophuthatswana despite a last-minute petition to the Supreme Court for a stay
of execution pending the filing of a petition for clemency.