Closing Arguments in the Reopened Neil Aggett Inquest to take place on July 1, 2021

PRESS RELEASE
TO: All Media
ATT: News Editors, Human Rights Reporters
For immediate release
Wednesday, 23 June 2021

Press Release by the Foundation for Human Rights and Webber Wentzel


The re-opened inquest into the death of Dr Neil Aggett will resume on 1 July 2021 at 10.00
a.m. to hear closing arguments and is expected to run for about 2 days. The hearing will be
virtual as the courts are operating under strict lockdown regulations to prevent the spreading
of the Covid -19, as Gauteng is now considered to be the epicenter of the virus. While we
would have liked to have the inquest end on a befitting note with family members and
colleagues of Aggett able to attend the proceedings, unfortunately this cannot happen and
so the hearing will be virtual and will be livestreamed by the Foundation for Human Rights via
its Facebook page(@FHRights) at https://www.facebook.com/FHRights


Dr Neil Hudson Aggett was a medical doctor and trade union organiser, and the first white
person to die in detention during apartheid. On 5 February 1982, Aggett was found hanging
in his cell at John Vorster Square, after 70 days in police custody. An initial inquest in 1982
ruled his death the result of suicide. Almost three decades later, based on new evidence, a
reopened inquest was ordered on 16 August 2019. The re-opened inquest commenced on 20
January 2020 in the South Gauteng High Court of Johannesburg.


In 2020, the resumed inquest saw the family members, experts and political activists testifying
about their interactions with Dr Aggett before his death, their experiences from detention
and about the methods employed by Security Branch of the South African Police in relation
to political activists. The court also conducted the inspection in loco of the 2nd and 10th floor
of the John Vorster Square, where political activists were kept and interrogated, and were the
body of Dr Aggett was found in 1982.


As a result of deliberate fabrication and withholding of information from the TRC, many
perpetrators of human rights violations have escaped scrutiny and responsibility for their
actions. The survivors and the families of those who died in detention need to know the truth
about how their loved ones were tortured and killed so that they can get closure on a painful
chapter in their lives.


The re-opened inquest into the death of Dr Neil Aggett concluded on 15 February 2021 before
Honourable Judge Makume presiding at the Johannesburg High Court. The closing arguments
were initially scheduled to take place on 18 March 2021. However, due to the challenges with
obtaining the transcripts of the court proceedings, Webber Wentzel Pro Bono Department
acting for the Aggett family had no choice other than to request Judge Makume to postpone
the closing arguments.

There has been no indication from the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), on when the
court will hear the closing arguments in the death of Ernest Dipale who was detained at the
same prison as Neil Aggett in 1982. The Dipale family was represented by the NPA.
The reopened inquest has been a very challenging and an emotional roller coaster for both
families who waited more than a decade to have the inquests re-opened only to have the
hearing interrupted by the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic in a manner not foreseen by
anyone. The coming together of the family in court supported by colleagues and friends of
the deceased was suddenly and rudely replaced by a cold virtual hearing with its own
shortcomings in regard to clarity of sound and picture.


For more information on the “Unfinished Business of the Truth and Reconciliation
Commission” Programme that is run by the Foundation for Human Rights consult our website:
https://unfinishedtrc.co.za .


For more information about the case contact:
Webber Wentzel Pro Bono: Moray Hathorn: moray.hathorn@webberwentzel.com /
+2711 530 5539 or Samantha Robb: Samantha.Robb@webberwentzel.com / +2711 530 5107
Foundation for Human Rights: Ahmed Mayet amayet@fhr.org.za and/ or Katarzyna Zdunczyk
kzdunczyk@fhr.org.za


For media enquiries contact:
Lindiwe Sibiya, Media and Communication Officer, FHR at lsibiya@fhr.org.za and 082 634
7154

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