The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) has said that it was gravely concerned about the threat directed at commissioner Chris Nissen by a leader of the refugee group that has been occupying the Methodist Mission Church in central Cape Town for the past three months. The commission said in a statement issued on Wednesday 29 January that it was considering legal action. According to the statement, refugee leader JP Balous threatened to kill Nissen before the Western Cape High Court heard an application by the city council against the group.
It said in light of the threat, it had decided to withdraw from negotiations to end the occupation of the church and protect vulnerable members of the group. The commission said Balous was personally involved in the physical assault of members of the clergy in which Nissen was injured in November.
“Despite this incident, commissioner Nissen has been unflagging in his efforts to find a peaceful and lasting solution to the protest, even to the extent of pleading with political leadership in the city and province to consider the proposal of alternative accommodation, against the advice of other role players due to the precarious housing situation in the city and province.”
“In light of the attack on commissioner Nissen’s dignity and integrity – and by implication, against the commission as a whole – the commission can no longer be involved in any further engagements regarding this matter. The commission added that is was considering legal recourse regarding the threats to Nissen’s life and vowed to act against anybody who made unfounded allegations against it.
“During the four months that the commission has been engaging in this matter, in attempts to secure the safety of vulnerable women and children in this group, it has upheld its constitutional mandate of fairness and impartiality even in the face of blatant examples of dishonesty on the part of the leaders of this protest.The group has demanded relocation to another country, claiming that they were not safe in South Africa. The city applied for a court interdict on the grounds of alleged by-law contraventions by the group.
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