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South Africa, Ending Secrecy, Names 8,501 Detained in Emergency Rule

August 19, 1986|MICHAEL PARKS | Times Staff Writer

CAPE TOWN, South Africa — The government said Monday that it had detained 8,501 people without charge since declaring a national state of emergency two months ago and, breaking official secrecy on their identities, published their names for the first time.

As required by law, Louis le Grange, minister of law and order, presented to Parliament a 171-page list of those detained, but he did not disclose the whereabouts of any of the prisoners, many of whom have been held incommunicado since a state of emergency was proclaimed June 12.

The government list exceeded by about 3,000 names the lists of known detainees compiled by the opposition Progressive Federal Party, the Detainees' Parents Support Committee and church groups, but it still did not appear to be complete.

Neil Ross, head of the Progressive Federal Party's office that monitors security detentions, said the names of some people who have been released in recent weeks are on the government list but that the names of many others known to have been detained do not appear.

Estimated 13,000 Detained

The Progressive Federals and other monitoring groups estimate that more than 13,000 people have been detained under the emergency regulations, although perhaps a third have been released in the past month.

"For some families this list will answer the question of what has happened" to missing relatives, Ross said here, "but for others, who can't find their relatives' names on it, the question may be even sharper now."

The government Bureau for Information, sole authorized spokesman on the state of emergency, said it does not know whether the list included everyone detained so far under emergency regulations, which permit indefinite detention without trial, or only those held on a certain past date.

The bureau said it is unable to explain why the government is withholding the whereabouts of prisoners and such other information about them as places and dates of detention. Le Grange's spokesman could not be reached for comment after the list was published Monday.

'Confirms Our Fears'

Helen Suzman, a veteran Progressive Federal Party member of Parliament who has campaigned for human rights for more than 30 years, commented: "This list confirms our worst fears. They have detained more people in eight weeks than in the entire eight months of the last (previous) state of emergency."

The government until now has refused to say how many people it has detained or to make public their names in an apparent effort to minimize the extent of the police roundups of anti-apartheid activists. The Information Bureau has asserted that it was "not in the interest of the state" to say who or how many people it has detained.

But laws under which the emergency was proclaimed require the government to report to Parliament on regulations that have been adopted and the names of those detained.

The emergency regulations prohibit, under penalty of fines and prison sentences, the unauthorized disclosure of any detainee's name, although local newspapers began publishing the names of those whose relatives were officially notified of their detentions.

Controversial Feature

Few aspects of the state of emergency, imposed to quell the rising political violence, have been as controversial as the detentions, which began with midnight raids even before the emergency was declared.

Detentions of labor union officials have brought widespread strikes to secure their release. Those of students and teachers have led to renewed school boycotts, and those of black community leaders have added to the political chaos in many areas.

Business executives and human rights activists have criticized the detentions. And South African courts have increasingly held that President Pieter W. Botha and the police were exceeding their authority in holding people indefinitely without charge.

But Le Grange, the hard-line minister of law and order, has said that the police, unfettered by the limitations of security laws, have been able to prevent much anticipated unrest and to solve a number of outstanding crimes, including several terrorist bombings, by interrogating detainees.

Debate Scheduled Friday

The Progressive Federal Party won agreement from the ruling National Party for a debate Friday on the state of emergency and on the government's management of the economy and its handling of foreign relations.

Parliament reassembled here Monday for an unusual second session, originally called by Botha to consider new political reforms but now confined to legislative housekeeping.

Several reform measures were introduced Monday, but members of the ruling National Party said they doubt that major new legislation will be passed this year.

The key reform bill, which would establish a "power-sharing" national council and thereby start the process of drafting a new constitution, has run into strong black opposition and will probably not be introduced this year.

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