[Dear Colleagues: As lawyers, we are writing to you to ask you to sign a Declaration concerning the status and rights of members of the liberation movements]

by Gay McDougall
Washington, DC, United States
July 23, 1981
5 pages
Type: Mailing
Coverage in Africa: Namibia, South Africa
Coverage outside Africa: United States
Language: English
Mailing to lawyers asking them to sign a declaration.  The mailing says Dear Colleagues: as lawyers, we are writing to you to ask you to sign a Declaration concerning the status and rights of members of the liberation movements of South Africa and Namibia when taken prisoner during the course of their struggle for freedom. The mailing says in response to the unique nature of oppression in South Africa and South Africa's aggression against the people of Namibia, it is now recognized that: 1) apartheid is a crime against humanity; 2) the people of South Africa and Namibia have a right to struggle for self-determination; 3) those who are captured during that struggle have a right to humane treatment and prisoner-of-war status. The mailing says over the past few years, the South African authorities have made no meaningful concessions to the demands of the Black majority for freedom and independence in their own country; non-violent opposition has been ruthlessly crushed, its leaders banned and imprisoned or, like Steve Biko, murdered in jail. The mailing says the young people of South Africa, thousands of whom were shot at and imprisoned in 1976 when they demonstrated, unarmed, against the hated apartheid system, are turning increasingly to armed means of struggle; a tremendous spirit of resistance has been aroused to which the South African Government is responding with increased repression, using the judicial system as its chief weapon. The mailing says in Namibia, where the level of hostilities is in an advanced state, non-combatant civilians are imperiled; for example, in 1978 South African jet bombers and paratroopers killed more than 600 Namibian refugees in Angola, the great majority of whom were at the Kassinga refugee settlement 250 km inside Angolan territory; as a consequence of that raid, South African forces captured at least 118 Namibians who are still being detained incommunicado at a military detention camp at Hardap Dam in southern Namibia.; no charges have ever been laid against them and no relatives or legal representatives have been permitted to visit. The mailing says South Africa's continued use of its legal system to crush opposition places it in violation of still other widely accepted rules of international law, i.e. the Geneva Conventions of 1949 Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War and Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War and Protocol I thereto; the Geneva Conventions of 1949 consists of rules designed to ensure respect, protection, and humane treatment of war casualties and non-combatants; specifically, captured militants cannot be tortured, can be forced to do labor only in extremely limited situations, and until the hostilities end, must be housed and fed according to detailed prescriptions that are considered to reflect generally accepted rules of civilized conduct. The mailing says more than 300 Dutch and 150 Irish lawyers have already signed this Declaration; a similar appeal is being launched in Britain; we hope it will persuade our Government to take all possible steps to save the lives of those on death row in South Africa and Namibia, and that it will be the start of world-wide pressure to compel the South African authorities to observe the Geneva Conventions. The mailing discusses Section 10 of the Internal Security Act, the Terrorism Act, detention, Petrus Mashigo, Naphtali Manana, Ncimbithi Lubisi, the execution of Solomon Mahlangu, James Mange, sentencing to death of a Namibian farmworker, the "Declaration on Principles of International Law Concerning Friendly Relations and Cooperation Among States in Accordance with the Charter of the United Nations", human rights, prisoners, Oliver Tambo, the African National Congress (ANC), the South West Africa People's Organization (SWAPO), prisoner-of-war status, the civilian population, trials, high treason, captured militants, and struggles against colonial and racist regimes.
Used by permission of Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.
Collection: Elizabeth S. Landis collection, National Archives of Namibia