|April 12, 2002
SOUTH AFRICA: Wouter Basson acquitted among strong protests
Apartheid-era germ warfare expert Wouter Basson, who has been acquitted
on 46 charges in South Africa, may still stand trial for atrocities in Namibia,
Foreign Minister Theo-Ben Gurirab said on Friday, April 12. "For us the matter
will not rest until we see justice done," he said a day after the acquittal,
adding that Namibia might consider applying to extradite Basson to stand trial.
"We know, and this was confirmed by the South African Truth and Reconciliation
Commission (TRC) hearings, that as part of apartheid South Africa's chemical
and biological warfare programme, Basson and his cohorts eliminated more than
200 Swapo (South West African People's Organisation)," Gurirab said. Basson's
acquittal was a "scandalous and monumental travesty of justice," the minister
Six charges against Basson, including three charges of conspiracy to
commit murder in Namibia in the 1980s, were dropped at the start of the
marathon 30-month trial in the Pretoria High Court. Those charges alleged that
Basson was involved in the poisoning of some 200 Swapo detainees in an
internment camp and the death of five other detainees at a military base who
were injected with muscle relaxants. All the bodies were dumped into the
Atlantic Ocean from an aeroplane. Basson was also accused of being involved in
a plot to kill Namibian public servant Peter Kalangula by smearing poison on
his car door and a plan to contaminate the water supply of a Swapo refugee camp
outside Windhoek with cholera.
The charges against Basson were dropped because of a general amnesty to
all apartheid soldiers, issued by South Africa's administrator in Namibia on
the eve of the country's independence in 1990. Until then, white South Africa
had waged a war against black nationalists in the country. Asked whether the
amnesty would make it difficult for Namibia to try Basson, Gurirab said that he
would not "honour that question with an answer". "We are an independent,
sovereign state now, so those proclamations are irrelevant now," he said.
In South Africa itself, Jubilee SAs spokesperson Neville Gabriel issued
the following media statement on April 11 (excerpts):
Dr Death trial outcome
a travesty of justice:
Wouter Bassons acquittal on a host of most horrendous charges in
the Pretoria High Court today is a shameful day for truth and justice in
post-apartheid South Africa...
Bassons case represents all that was despicable about the
corrupted apartheid system and the continued impunity of apartheid criminals in
the new South Africa, while apartheids victims continue to suffer in
poverty, joblessness, and the failure to ensure reparations.
Thousands of apartheids victims hoped that the Basson trial would
help them to understand the past and come to terms with it, and that it would
deliver a small token of justice for the many who were tortured, killed, and
exiled. However, the trial revealed only that apartheids powerful
military and secret service bosses still have much to hide and still have the
means to obstruct the wheels of justice.
This is the second time that the courts have cleared high level
apartheid military leaders of wrongdoing, the first being Magnus Malan. It is
evident that the courts are unable to deal fairly with such matters.
Unbelievably, the court has given more credibility to Bassons word than
to the two hundred state witnesses and many more written statements.
Dr Death, the head of apartheids chemical and biological weapons
programme, whom the court admitted has extensive knowledge and expertise in the
production of dreadfully dangerous chemical and biological weapons and
knowledge of the chemical and biological weapons market, now walks free without
any way of society controlling his activities.
Jubilee South Africa further expressed alarm that conflicting statements
have emerged from the departments of Justice and National Intelligence about
who has custody of the missing Truth & Reconciliation (TRC) files relating
to chemical and biological weapons and the murder of Dulcie September. It is
highly irregular that the National Intelligence Agency had access to the
missing files. We demand an explanation of this from both relevant government
departments... (MAIL&GUARDIAN; Jubilee SA)