Date: March 21, 2024 Type: Country:

South Africa: No one should be killed fighting for basic human rights

No one should be killed for fighting for their basic human rights, Amnesty International South Africa said on national Human Rights Day.

“No individual should ever be subjected to harm or death for standing up for their basic rights. In a society that values justice and equality, the protection of those who advocate for human rights should be paramount,” Amnesty International South Africa Executive Director Shenilla Mohamed said. 

“Human rights defenders play a crucial role in holding authorities accountable and advancing human rights and social justice. Yet, tragically, many of these brave individuals face intimidation, harassment, and even violence and death for their noble efforts.”

An example of this has been the harassment and killings of Abahlali baseMjondolo (AbM) activists. Amnesty International has put its might behind the grassroots movement and its General Secretary Thapelo Mohapi, who is in hiding and facing threats because of his activism. Thapelo has dedicated his life to fighting for the rights of people across South Africa, particularly in areas suffering economic hardship and living in informal settlements.

Thapelo Mohapi was one of Amnesty International’s global Write for Rights campaign and since the start of the campaign in October 2023, 516,614 people took action globally calling on the police to investigate cases thoroughly, impartially and effectively so that there is justice for AbM activists killed, and to provide adequate protection for Thapelo and other AbM members currently under threat.

Earlier this month, the South Africa Human Rights Commission announced that an SA Police Service task team in KwaZulu-Natal had been set up to investigate the killings of AbM activists. While Amnesty International South Africa welcomes this long overdue move, the task team needs to be efficient, independent and transparent to ensure protection for AbM members. 

Amnesty International South Africa has also campaigned for justice for Fikile Ntshangase, and protection of Nonhle Mbuthuma and continues to call for the protection of all HRDs. 

“South Africa has a long and painful history of violence, where life is often regarded as cheap. However, the right to life is a fundamental human right that must be respected and protected by all. Every person, regardless of their beliefs or affiliations, deserves to live without fear of persecution or harm,” Shenilla Mohamed said.

South Africa will be celebrating 30 years since the end of apartheid next month and still people are being assassinated and murdered for standing up for what they believe in, fighting for basic services, or speaking out against corruption. 

“The attacks on those fighting for basic rights are a grave violation of human dignity. It is imperative that our government takes decisive action to ensure the protection of these individuals and enacts strong legislation to safeguard their rights,” she said. 

There is an urgent need for legislative measures to safeguard the lives of human rights defenders. 

“We cannot allow a culture of impunity to prevail,” said Shenilla Mohamed.

“No one should pay the ultimate price for demanding their rights.”

Amnesty International South Africa is calling on the government to uphold its obligations under international law to protect human rights defenders and ensure their safety, and urge all living in South Africa to stand in solidarity with human rights defenders and demand an end to violence and impunity.


Human Rights Day in South Africa commemorates 21 March 1960, known as the Sharpeville Massacre. On that day, 69 people were killed and 180 were wounded when police fired on a peaceful crowd that had gathered in protest against the pass laws, which required that black people had to carry documents which would allow them access to otherwise restricted areas.

For more information or to request an interview, please contact:

Genevieve Quintal, Media and Communications Officer, Amnesty International South Africa: +27 (0) 64 890 9224;  

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Amnesty International South Africa office, 97 Oxford Road, Saxonwold, Johannesburg, 2196