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Thursday, February 28, 2013

Video of Man Being Dragged Behind Police Van Prompts Murder Inquiry in South Africa

An independent police review board in South Africa opened a murder investigation into the death of a man in custody this week after video of the arrest obtained by a newspaper showed officers dragging the man behind a police van.

According to a statement issued by the Independent Police Investigative Directorate in Pretoria, two officers said they first approached the man, a 27-year-old taxi driver, because he was “obstructing traffic” at a market in Daveyton township east of Johannesburg on Tuesday evening. The officers claimed that the man assaulted one of the officers and grabbed his gun, before the other officer “overpowered the taxi driver and handed the firearm back to his colleague.”

Video recorded by a witness and posted on Facebook

About two hours after the arrest, the review board said, the taxi driver was found dead at the police station where he had been driven. At a post-mortem on Wednesday, “the cause of death was found to be head injuries with internal bleeding.”

The dead man was identified by The Daily Sun as Mido Macia, an immigrant from Mozambique. The newspaper’s report on the incident quoted unnamed witnesses at both the market and the police station who accused the officers of ! brutality. “They killed him,” an unnamed prisoner at the police station in Daveyton said. “They beat him up so badly in here.”

“He was in pain, he cried and asked the cops to stop but they continued anyway,” a woman at the market said of the arrest. A man added: “If he was parked on the wrong side of the road, they were supposed to give him a ticket, not kill him.”

In a television interview, a spokesman for the review board, Moses Dlamini, said that investigators “need to speak to the person who took the footage and have the footage authenticated” to use it in court.

A South African television report on the death of a suspect in police custody this week.

Mr. Dlamini added that the officers had filed routine paperwork calling for a reviw board investigation before the video came to light, but “the report that we got from the police is totally different from what â€" the statements that we are getting from members of the community who are witnesses, who witnessed this incident, so we changed that inquest docket to a murder docket.” The spokesman added, “we are shocked ourselves,” by the video in part because it appears to show the officers had no fear that they might be held accountable for torturing a man in broad daylight in front of dozens of witnesses. On the evidence of the clip, Mr. Mr. Dlamini said, “the police don’t even care that there are people who are watching, there are witnesses.” As of Wednesday, he added, the officers involved in the incident remained on duty.

As The Guardian notes, Amnesty International’s 2012 annual report on the state of human rights in South Africa revealed that the police oversight body, “reported a 7 per cent decline between April 2010 and March 2011 in recorded deaths in custody and resulting from’“police action.’” Still, the report said, there were 797 such deaths in that one-year period.