When there is a Gap in Law: Bridging Gaps Through Implementation of the Prevention and Combating of Torture of Persons Act 13 of 2013

After 16 years of delays, South Africa finally enacted the Prevention and Combating of Torture of Persons Act (“the Act”) in July 2013. The Act domesticates the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT) and fulfils South Africa’s international law obligation to pass anti-torture legislation after signing and ratifying UNCAT in 1997. The question remains, however, whether the Act is a true reflection of UNCAT as an empowering instrument or whether gaps exist when it comes to its substantive provisions. Article 14 of UNCAT, which guarantees redress for victims of torture, in particular, is noticeably frugal in the Act. This omission presents a rather gloomy outlook, unless the implementation phase of the Act takes a positive turn. In the application of the Act, there is an opportunity for the various implementers – specifically the legal profession – to look to international law in order to bridge the gap created by the Act when it comes to providing effective and adequate redress for victims.