From the Worldwide Faith News archives

South African Anglican to Head Human Rights Agency

Date 28 May 1996 05:49:03

Canon James M. Rosenthal, Director of Communications
Anglican Communion News Service
157 Waterloo Road, London SE1 8UT, England
Tel. 44 0171 620-1110
Fax 44 0171 620-1071

764 ACC

(ENI-Ecumenical News International) The former director of the 
Programme to Combat Racism (PCR) of the World Council of Churches 
in Geneva, the Revd Barney Pityana, has been elected chairperson 
of the newly constituted Human Rights Commission in South Africa.

Barney Pityana, an Anglican priest, was one of 11 people appointed by
President Nelson Mandela to the commission which was formally 
launched on 2 October.

Fr Pityana, who was an exile during the apartheid era, said that the
commission was not a formal government body but it had the powers to 
keep the government in check with regard to the human rights clauses 
in the new constitution.

It would advise the government if proposed or current legislation 
clashed with the human rights clauses. It could also receive and 
investigate complaints from members of the public who felt their 
rights might have been violated, and had the power to institute 
litigation if necessary.

"Compared with the culture under the apartheid regime when human 
rights were totally ignored, the fact that this commission has been 
instituted is a significant development," Fr Pityana said. "It shows 
the government is serious to create a culture of human rights."

At a press conference he pledged to maintain the "independence and
impartiality" of the commission. It would seek to promote the 
awareness and observance, protection of and respect for human rights 
in the new post-apartheid South Africa.

Fr Pityana was director of PCR from 1988 to December 1992, when he 
returned from exile to South Africa.

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