By Loyiso Sidimba
VICTIMS of apartheid-era atrocities are entitled to make representations before the president grants pardon to perpetrators, the country's highest court ruled today.
In a unanimous decision, Chief Justice Sandile Ngcobo said "victims must be given the opportunity to be heard in order to determine the facts on which pardons are based, namely, whether the offence was committed with a political motive".
AWB activist Ryan Albutt applied for a pardon under the special dispensation process initiated by former President Thabo Mbeki in November 2007.
Albutt participated in a 1995 attack in Kuruman, Northern Cape, in which one person died and 200 were hurt.
Mbeki established the Pardons Reference Group (PRG), which considered more than 2?000 applications for pardons and the group made recommendations to him.
The PRG was established to deal with pardon applications from those convicted for offences they claim were politically motivated, but did not participate in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
The president and the justice and constitutional development minister supported Albutt's applications during a high-court bid, insisting that victims of apartheid-era offences for which the pardon was sought were not entitled to make representations before a decision to grant the pardon is made.
In April, the North Gauteng High Court granted an interdict preventing Mbeki's successor, then President Kgalema Motlanthe, from pardoning 121 inmates and others recommended by the PRG.
A group of non-governmental organisations was granted the interdict against the issuing of pardons under the special dispensation.
Albutt brought his failed Constitutional Court application against the NGOs as well as the president and the justice and constitutional development minister.
During the hearing in November, Geoff Budlender accused Albutt of not caring about the plight of the victims.
Budlender was acting on behalf of seven of the 15 respondents, including the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation, the Khulumani Support Group and the Freedom of Expression Institute.
In City Press.