Fonds AK2300 - Harms Commission of Inquiry Records

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Harms Commission of Inquiry Records


  • 1990 (Creation)

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1 CD, digital format only

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(February-September 1990)

Administrative history

The Commission of Inquiry into Certain alleged Murders was appointed by the then State FW de Klerk on 2 February 1990, in response to outcries by South African and international human rights groups over allegations by three former police officers in October and November 1989 that they had been members of an officially authorized and funded police death squad. In early 1990, another death squad, the Civil Cooperation Bureau (CCB), sponsored by the South African Defense Forces, was revealed. The allegations presented the de Klerk government with one of its first major domestic crises

However, the Harms Commission suffered from extremely restricted terms of reference that were very strictly applied by Harms and which prevented the investigations to go beyond the borders of the country. Therefore, the Harms Commission was seriously flawed in both design and practice. At the outset, Justice Harms announced that he would limit the inquiry to acts committed within the borders of South Africa, even though many anti-apartheid activists had been assassinated on foreign soil. Government witnesses, some of whom showed up to testify in wigs and other disguises, were not required to produce pertinent documents. The CCB was disbanded in August, but no prosecutions resulted. The Harms Commission report, which was released in September 1990, failed to name any special units of the army or police, let alone any individual officers, as participants in the death squads. The report was denounced by opposition groups as a whitewash.

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The records in this collection consist of 2957 pages of evidence heard in South Africa and 960 pages of evidence heard in London.

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