Bill On Banned Weapons Considered (South Africa)
The country's courts will have jurisdiction to prosecute South Africans who contravene, even outside the country, provisions of a proposed bill on the prohibition and restriction on using certain categories of conventional weapons.
The bill, tabled in Parliament yesterday, gives effect to the international Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons, which SA has signed and ratified.
If the bill is passed, contraventions abroad will be deemed to have occurred in SA, and penalties will include fines or up to 15 years in jail, or both.
However, Democratic Alliance defence spokesman Andries Botha raised the alarm about the proposed prosecutorial reach of the bill.
While stressing that the DA still had to study the proposals and that the party supported their noble intentions, Botha said the DA would oppose the bill if it meant SA was going beyond the requirements of the international convention by legislating for prosecutions of citizens acting outside its borders.
"If the international convention imposes this as an obligation on all countries, then fine," Botha said, expressing concern that the government might be repeating the "mistake" of the controversial law regulating mercenary activity abroad which he said was arbitrary and persecutory.
According to the memorandum to the bill, the aim of the convention was to implement the humanitarian principle that the right of parties to an armed conflict to choose methods or means of warfare was limited. The convention restricts or prohibits certain conventional weapons. These include nondetectable fragments and blinding laser weapons while restricted weapons include land mines, booby traps and other devices and incendiary weapons.
The bill stipulates that those in possession of prohibited weapons before the commencement of the legislation would be obliged to notify a police or military official about it.
The original convention was negotiated by 51 states in 1980. According to the Washington-based Arms Control Association, its aim was "to protect military troops from inhumane injuries and prevent noncombatants from accidentally being wounded or killed by certain types of arms".
Since it came into force in December 1983, more weapons have been added to the list.
Von: 12.04.2007 allafrica.com