CSVR Internal Seminar- Jay D. Aronson                                                                                                                                                                                                                         19.06.2017


The Magic of Math in Human Rights

- Tasneem Kalla -


On 19 June 2017, Jay Aronson, the founder and director of the United States-based Centre for Human Rights Science (CHRS), presented his work on transitional justice and technology at the CSVR Cape Town office, sharing the organization’s work in integrating technology into the analysis of human rights violations in the aftermath of conflict and disaster. Aronson demonstrated how CHRS merged human rights, justice, and technology to develop software that can convert media, such as videos and audio, into evidence that can be used in courts to aid the prosecution of perpetrators of war crimes and grave violations of human rights. He further explained, “what I do is create collaborations between human rights practitioners with focus on science, mostly around statistics and computer science.”

During the seminar, Aronson demonstrated how the use of the program Event Labelling through Analytic Media Processing (E-LAMP) during the current conflict in Syria represented a unique form of conflict documentation in real time by Syrians themselves. He highlighted that there was a constant stream of video footage being uploaded on public platforms from conflict zones and nearly one million hours of video recordings were providing multiple perspectives on the conflict.  This is where E-LAMP, the collaborative program, featured to scan through materials (like YouTube video and Instagram uploads) to recognise and group specific sounds and images based on classification filters. An example of the successful use of this system is the video footage gathered during the Ukraine (Bosnian-Serb) conflict, where points of shooting, conflict and the celebratory ‘looting’ of Muslim towns was presented as evidence in the proceeding court cases. E-LAMP has provided a platform in which simulations of scenarios under investigation can be recreated providing multi-perspective insights and information pertinent to prosecution and prevention.

“None of this is magic, it’s all math, algorithms, some geometry – it seems like a black box but its math and assumptions,” said Aronson referring to E-LAMP and big data analysis. And while the innovative software cannot tell the entire narrative it has the potential to provide counter-narratives in a context of mainstream media and single-story reporting. Referring to this Aronson asked whether phones had democratised documentation or perpetuated inequalities in accessing justice. This question posed by Aronson is especially significant because whose truth gets more prominence – often mirroring the socioeconomic and political inequalities that exist – remains a challenge in the field of transitional justice. Other challenges and opportunities included technology in advocacy, as Aronson pointed out that “one thing that technology can’t do is create political will and if there’s no will to prevent [conflict], technology isn’t necessarily going to have an impact”. He noted that the potential of the E-LAMP technology was not limited to war contexts alone, and that it could be used to document social injustices and crimes, such as labour violations, police brutality, and riots.

Aronson concluded his thought-provoking seminar by discussing the potential that human capital presented in the documentation of the lived experiences of people. This could be done through innovative use of technology to create historical records of events that have transpired, as well as to address human rights violations from a grassroots level. The advent of social media and technology advancements thus presented the prospects of supporting individuals on-the-ground as part of human rights monitoring processes – working collaboratively to ensure increases in political will to address violations and greater positive impact.

05 August 2016

Press Statement

The Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR) applauds South Africans for the peaceful nature of the municipal elections. This attests to the maturity of our democracy and we take pride in both our citizens and leaders for the manner in which the Election Day unfolded.

CSVR has been concerned about the dramatic upsurge in political killings in Kwa Zulu Natal (KZN) and the violent protests that happened in Tshwane and other areas ahead of the local government elections.

South Africans must now urgently reflect on this and come up with solutions to prevent such violence from recurring.

CSVR research has shown that the violence was fuelled by lack of service delivery, failure of government to respond to the concerns of communities and communities’ frustration over the selection of political candidates. CSVR is also concerned about the impact of campaigning on future social cohesion, specifically the divisive language often used by political leaders during campaigning.

High expectations were generated during campaigning. Voters placed their hope and trust in the hands of political leaders. Such increased expectations, if unmet, could feed into the already existing levels of agitation and frustration and then, translate into increased levels of violence in the coming months and years.

Despite the peaceful climate on Election Day, several urgent and pertinent questions remain. The greatest of which is what action will be taken by government to address these issues once the electoral process has come to an end? How will the elected local government officials and broader community leadership foster social cohesion and address longstanding and deepening divisions that were amplified prior to and during campaigning?

Capacity building for the newly elected officials is a priority. Leaders must improve their ability to listen and engage with the citizenry to ensure more inclusive and responsive social and civic relations. Communities also need to take responsibility by demanding accountable and responsive leadership at community level.

Most importantly, leaders need to remain visible and accessible; they must be able to interact with communities regularly - not only during election campaigns. In order to effectively address violence in our communities, there must be a shift from campaigning to governing!

Issued by
Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation

For more information or media inquiries contact:
Nomfundo Mogapi, Executive Director, 0833371616
Annah Moyo, Senior Advocacy Manager, 0788010378

“Society, media and leadership need to learn to hear the cries for social justice that continue to echo not just in the walls of universities but within South African communities at large so that they do not need to resort to violence to be heard.”

CSVR Press Statement on the violence related to the FeesMustFall Campaign

The Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR) stands in support of the call for fair, equitable and affordable higher education in South Africa and welcomes the 0% increase announced by the president. This however is a small victory within a larger battle for social justice. CSVR is alarmed by the government’s initial nonchalant response to the students’ grievances and drawing from its long-standing work on violence and its prevention, calls on the South African government to urgently consider the real issues for which students are fighting for. The struggle is not simply for zero fees, but for broader social justice.

CSVR observes that the trends we see in this campaign for zero fees are similar to those found in collective violence in our communities over a number of years. In the Smoke that Calls Report that explored the causes of collective violence, key lessons that emerged include:

1. The need to be heard: At the core of these nationwide protests are students who want their grievances and challenges to be heard after protracted exposure to socioeconomic exclusion. Our government needs to hear and see society as it is, with the harsh realities faced by ordinary South Africans, including the students, when it comes to socioeconomic struggles. CSVR’s research found that only after years of peaceful protests and trying to get the leadership to hear them, communities resorted to violence as “the only language” that would be heard by government and the privileged sectors    of our society. It is therefore important to consider what it is that make us HEAR in this country.

2. The role of leadership: Lack of leadership including delayed leadership response and inappropriate responses emerged as one of the factors that accelerate or decelerate collective violence during protests. Research in the communities highlighted that leadership tended to respond only when there was violence. And this response was often one that was dismissive or confrontational, often triggered more violence. There is an urgent need to train leadership on crowd communication skills that decelerates rather than accelerates violence. Leaders also need training on how to deal with the “emotional triggers” of crowds and how they could avoid aggravating volatile situations. Leadership in this instance includes not only government but also leadership in academic institutions and the police service. CSVR commends the leadership that has been displayed by the students where they neutralized potentially volatile and violent situations. We can learn how to develop leadership within communities from them.

3. The role of police: The police have also emerged as key factor in fueling violence through excessive use of force during protests. The hasty resort to force by the police in such protests is concerning. We call upon the South African government to guard against drifting towards a police state. CSVR is also concerned about the emotional state and the psychological readiness of the police to deal with the highly emotive nature of crowds. Our research suggests that police officers often approach crowds in “fight mode”, focusing on crowd dispersal rather than crowd management or negotiations. Our police officers seem to view protesters as potential criminals rather than ordinary citizen fighting for their rights. There is an urgent need for a paradigm shift within the police on their perception of protesters and their psychological preparedness in dealing with angry and frustrated crowds.

In considering some of the lessons highlighted in the collective violence research, CSVR recommends a different approach to dealing with the students’ protests and notes that these nationwide protests need to be regarded as a wake-up call for South Africa and its leadership. CSVR hereby recommends the following approach in preventing further escalation of violence:

  • The leadership must be first at the scene. We need to avoid resorting to police to control and clamp down on the voices of protest.
  • We need to work on the emotional state and psychological readiness of the police to deal with the highly emotive nature of crowds.
  • We also call on the police to take seriously to the findings of the Marikana Commission of Enquiry. The report gave very useful guidelines on how to police crowds in a way that does not fuel violence. The police reaction during the students’ protests demonstrates a police service that has not learnt from the tragedy and is likely to repeat similar these horrendous mistakes.

“It is important that we do not only hear when there is violence but also when there is a peaceful expression of concern; the students’ protests only received wide media coverage after the police violence in parliament, but there was limited coverage to the peaceful protest at Wits where it all started”, says CSVR Executive Director, Nomfundo Mogapi.


Yesterday the Ministry of Women in the Presidency held a meeting in Lakefield to announce their
plans for the international 16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children
campaign. While civil society was invited to a “consultation,” we arrived to find a plan for 16 Days
that was already finalized and approved by Cabinet. This plan will focus on engaging men to stand
up and support the campaign against violence by saying, “Count Me In.”

We acknowledge and support the need to engage men in the fight against gender-based violence
and applaud the Ministry’s desire to broaden the movement as widely as possible. Unfortunately the
Ministry’s language in launching this campaign reinforced a range of patriarchal ideas that we as the
women’s movement and organizations that support a gender equal society have fought against for

Minister Shabangu opened the session explaining her desire to focus on mobilizing men during
these 16 Days because, “Men are supposed to be protectors of society. Men are supposed to be
protectors of families. We need to bring back these protectors of society. We need to mobilize our
protectors.” She went on to say that women cannot be victims any more and need to “get their
confidence back.”

As Nandi Msezani from ESSET expressed directly to the Minister, “We need to be aware of the
language used as it comes from a very patriarchal standpoint. Men need to protect us? With
language such as this, women are being infantilized and moving the women’s movement
backwards.” She also went on to note “What about women in same sex relationships? LGBTI
individuals? Are we not women too?”

The Minister then invited Mpumalanga Chief Moses Mahlangu to share his comments. The Chief
spoke passionately about his belief that women must be submissive to their husbands. Princess
Dineo, from the Northwest Province, then stood up to tell us that feminism is un-African and
encouraged the Minister to cut all funds for centers for abused women and children, as they should
be dealing with these issues at home. Both speakers received nods from the Minister on the dais
and applause from the audience. Others followed decrying women’s abuse of men and women’s
aggression as the biggest challenges. These were deeply discriminatory statements that continue to
fuel the very gender-based violence that the meeting sought to address.

The Minister closed the opening session noting the diversity of opinions expressed and that we must
value diversity as it is protected in the South African Constitution. Although diversity should be
respected, the Minister has an obligation to ensure that diverse views expressed at an official
government event do not promote the violation of rights of women and children. Diversity in other
words cannot be upheld above the right to equality.

In the midst of an epidemic of gender-based violence unparalleled almost anywhere else in the
world, in a moment when we are desperate for leadership, for vision and strategy, we instead are
delivered destructive discourse and no clear roadmap for progress. Participating civil society
organsiations that have been fighting for gender equality, safety and security for over 20 years were
highly disappointed that what should have been a safe space to develop positive, progressive
actions for women’s rights was left open and unprotected by the Department of Women for highly
negative and oppressive input from traditionally conservative institutions and individuals.

This concerns us as activists. Patriarchy has been brought back to the mainstream and seems to be
supported if not promoted by the State agenda, ironically through a campaign that is designed to
highlight the scourge of patriarchal violence. Patriarchy is not an abstraction or a theoretical concern
as stated by the Minister. It directly feeds our epidemic of sexual and intimate partner violence. A
South African women murdered by an intimate partner every 8 hours is not an abstraction. Tens of
thousands of brutal rapes per year are not theoretical concerns.

Activists at the meeting also reminded Minister Shabangu of the Department’s previous
commitments on designing a national strategic plan on gender-based violence. Jabu Tugwana of
People Opposing Women Abuse, read a brief statement, from 13 organizations from across the
country, demanding the resumption of the National Strategic Plan process. But we received no
response, no answers on the status of the National Council on Gender-Based Violence, which has
been “under review” for 6 months. We received no public commitment on the National Strategic
Plan, which will be essential in stemming our country’s epidemic of violence.

We wish to state that our presence at the meeting should in no way be inferred to mean that we
approve of the 16 Days Campaign or the strategy employed by the Ministry. The meeting in no way
reflected the spirit of consultative engagement. We therefore call on all sectors of South African
society to challenge this neo-patriarchal framing, and to demand a plan from government.
To this end, we will host a National Day of Action on 25 November to launch our own 16 Days
campaign to demand a national plan to end gender-based violence from government. Join us by
signing this petition http://tinyurl.com/gbvplan and by coming out to participate in actions nation wide
demanding an NSP on 25 November.

Signed by:
Centre for Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR)
Eastern Cape Rape Crisis
Ecumenical Service for Socio-Economic Transformation (ESSET)
Justice and Women
Sonke Gender Justice
People Opposing Women Abuse (POWA)
Project Empower
Thohoyandou Victim Empowerment Programme (TVEP)
Tswaranang Legal Advice Centre
For media inquiries, please contact:
Jabu Tugwana Nondumiso Nsibande
POWA Tshwaranang Legal Advice Centre
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
083-400-4509 011 403 4267

3 August 2011

Press Statement

CSVR submission to Portfolio Committee on Justice and Constitutional Development

Call for police use of lethal force to be based on ‘protection of life’ principle 

In the run up to Parliamentary hearings on legislation dealing with the use of lethal force by police the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation has called for the use of lethal force by police to be based on a ‘protection of life’ principle.


The CSVR submission to the Portfolio Committee on Justice and Constitutional Development, submitted yesterday, expresses a concern that the Bill providing for amendment of Section 49 provides for an expansion of police powers to use lethal force. Killings by police are currently at high levels in South Africa and it may be anticipated that, if the Bill is passed in its current form, this will intensify the problem of excessive force.


The CSVR submission also argues that expanding police powers to use lethal force will not lead to improvements in police safety and will rather reinforce this problem.


The submission states that it is important that the use of lethal force needs to be based on clear ethical principles and that a protection of life principle is most appropriate in this regard.


‘Essentially it means that deadly force should only be used against a person who is likely to cause death or serious bodily harm to the police officer or another person in the immediate situation (use of deadly force for defence) or in the future (use of deadly force for arrest). Implicitly this would only be appropriate where deadly force is the only means available to prevent this from happening.’


The submission argues that this is important for a number of reasons, not least the interests of police officers who need to be able to deal with the moral consequences of killing people.


Police officers who use deadly force face profound personal consequences including not only trauma but also self doubt about the morality of their actions. In the interests of police themselves it is important that the provisions which empower them to take life be based on clearly understood ethical principles. In asking police to be prepared to take life the state has a responsibility to clearly articulate to them the ethical principles which authorize them to do so. The absence of clearly articulated principles feeds into a lack of clarity about the ethical basis for the use of deadly force. This in turn feeds into the sense of police as a morally compromised and tainted profession who are mere functionaries of the state in enforcement of the law.


The submission further argues that


If policing itself is not based on valuing and protecting human life this feeds into the overall problem of lack of value for human life in society. Basing the use of deadly force on clear ethical principles also has profound internal benefits for police agencies, providing moral reassurance to police officers who are involved in the use of deadly force, as well as feeding into feelings of pride in the policing profession and esprit de corps.


The CSVR submission also argues that the current Act, while articulating a protection of life principle, is poorly drafted. It makes proposals for strengthening the Bill so as to incorporate a protection of life principle as well as in response to police needs for greater clarity to be provided as to when they may, and may not, use lethal force.

Issued by: The Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation.

For further comment contact:

  • David Bruce, Senior Researcher – 082-784-8616
  • Nomfundo Mogapi. – 083 337 1616

Press Conference


On 11 May 2011, the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development (DOJ&CD) gazetted regulations for the payment of educational assistance and health benefits exclusively to victims identified by the TRC. The regulations were gazetted after only a very superficial consultation process with victims and other stakeholders, and do not address the key concerns expressed by these stakeholders.


The current proposals represent a failure of the state to deliver on its obligations to make reparations to victims of gross human rights violations. The government is proposing that it only pays for the small group of victims who made statements to the TRC rather than the thousands who legally qualify as victims of gross human rights violations. Broadening the reach of the reparations provisions was explicitly recommended by the TRC who did not want to set up a privileged group of victims after its very brief operations.


Effective reparations to all victims are a legal responsibility of the state. Many victims have come forward after the closure of the TRC. Excluding them would miss an opportunity to heal deeply traumatised communities and individuals. The state must give substance to the values and principles made explicit in the Preamble to the Constitution “to honour those who suffered for justice and freedom in our land.”


The coalition has records of thousands of victims who have been sidelined by the reparations process. Their needs and priorities have been communicated to the DoJ & CD. Numerous attempts have been made to collaborate in the development of appropriate regulations. The regulations published by the Department show a complete disregard for the government’s legal obligations. It also demonstrates a dismissive attitude to the needs expressed by victims.


The process of consultation needs to start afresh. The DoJ & CD proposals do not provide the basis for constructive dialogue.


Thirteen years after the closure of the TRC victims are tired of being treated with disrespect by the state. They paid a very high cost for the liberation of South Africa and they now find themselves ignored by an uncaring state. The Coalition demands that the present process is stopped until meaningful consultations are carried out with victims and interested parties.


The press conference is on Saturday 11 June at COSATU’s boardroom, Community House, 41 Salt River Road, at 11am and will hear the views and demands for justice from victims.

For more information please call:

Dr Marjorie Jobson             Khulumani Support Group                082 268 0223

Shirley Gunn                         Human Rights Media Centre             082 4509276


The SACTJ comprises the Khulumani Support Group, the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation, the International Centre for Transitional Justice, the South African History Archives, the Human Rights Media Centre, the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation, the Freedom of Expression Institute and the Trauma Centre for Survivors of Violence and Torture

14 April 2011

Press Statement

Police brutality televised last night was not an isolated incident

The incident of police brutality reported on SABC television on Wednesday which resulted in the death of Andries Tatane raises important concerns.
Police who are dealing with service delivery protests or other demonstrations are often responding to very heated and highly charged situations. Nevertheless as members of the national police service we expect no less of them than that they conduct themselves in terms of established standards of professionalism and discipline. 

The behaviour of members of the SAPS which was portrayed on SABC television raises concerns not only about standards of training, but also about the overall standards of leadership being exercised within the SAPS. While there has not been as much heated rhetoric from police leadership around the need to “shoot first,” there is still no sense that the senior leadership of the SAPS are actually fully committed to the principals of minimum force and proportionality which police members are supposed to uphold.

SAPS members need to uphold professional standards when using force of any kind. The occasional half hearted statement about the need for SAPS members to adhere to the law is not enough. The use of force needs to be recognised for what it is - a core part of the policing role – and appropriate steps taken to ensure that members are able to uphold the appropriate standards for using force. This calls for:
• An upgrading of the system for managing the use of force which is still in place within the SAPS and dates back to the apartheid era;
• A review of the training system
• The development of policy guidelines for members to ensure that they are aware of the standards and principles which the SAPS is supposed to uphold in dealing with the use  force. 
• Tasking stations commanders and other managers with the responsibility of engaging with their members on an ongoing basis about the standard which they are supposed to uphold.
• Proper systems of monitoring which can ensure that evidence of excessive use of force is addressed proactively.

Not only does this incident reaffirm evidence of an emerging pattern of brutality by police in responding to service delivery demonstrations, but it comes at a time when the number of killings and serious non fatal assaults  by police are at extremely high levels. While it is important that the incident be investigated, it should not be dealt with as an isolated incident but as a manifestation of a systemic problem.

Issued by: The Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation.
For further comment contact:

  • David Bruce, Senior Researcher – 082-784-8616
  • Nomfundo Mogapi. – 083 337 1616

Recent ICD statistics
ICD statistics on the use of force by police both for lethal force (killings) and serious non-fatal violence are currently at their highest levels since the ICD started operating and recording these statistics in 1997.

1. ICD statistics on deaths as a result of police action indicate that 568 people were killed by police during the 2008-2009 year and 524 were killed in the 2009-10 year.
2. ICD statistics indicate that the ICD received 920 complaints of assault GBH and 325 during the 2009-10 year. The comparable figures for 2008-9 were 828-372.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010
Press Release 
The Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation

Nothing new? - the Study on the Violent Nature of Crime

1. The CSVR crime study is of considerable value in taking forward the debate about how to respond to violent crime.  The overall ‘integrated view’ of key aspects of the problem of violence is an important achievement of the study and takes the study beyond anything that has been done on the subject in South Africa. The CSVR study is groundbreaking not only in integrating a large amount of what is known about violence in South Africa but in several other respects. New and innovate aspects of the study include (this list is not exhaustive):  
i. The studies on murder in six areas with high rates of murder, and case studies of perpetrators of violent crime are new research which provide new insights and add much greater depth to research on violence in South Africa. The murder study makes use of an innovative framework for analyzing murder dockets while the profiles of perpetrators of violent crime is the first such study which has been published in South Africa.
ii. The report on sexual violence, particularly in its new analysis of data from the cross-organisational ‘Tracking Justice’ study of rape in Gauteng, takes forward the literature on sexual violence and provides new data and analysis, amongst other things, on the interaction between victim resistance and injuries.  
iii. The report on inequality and violent crime provides a new perspective on how to understand the significance of inequality in relation to violence in South Africa.
iv. The conceptualization of ‘major forms of violence’ and ‘the politics of crime’ are innovative aspects of the study.
v. The study is also innovative in South African terms in relation to the use which it makes of criminal record data of perpetrators of violent crime in several of its reports. 
vi. The calls for a focus on armed violence, for attention to be paid to violence in poorer areas, and for broad social mobilisation against violence are new.
vii. The report highlights neglected aspects of violence including male-male-violence, aggravated street robbery, and knife violence.
viii. The findings on the concentration of aggravated robberies and firearm violence in metropolitan areas and the relationship between this and differences in patterns of murder between metropolitan and other areas are new findings.
ix. Related to this the finding relating to the involvement of some perpetrators in multiple forms of violence which cut across the imagined boundaries between ‘stranger’ and ‘acquaintance’ violence is also a new finding. 

2. CSVR welcomes robust debate and engagement with the study and we will continue to seek ways in which to engage both government and the Portfolio Committee on Police on this report. Given that the majority of MPs have not read any of the reports and the Portfolio Committee chair had only seen the high level findings we do not feel that members of the committee have as yet engaged meaningfully with its findings.  Since the study was completed early in 2009 our limited interaction with the Ministry on this study has not involved any substantial engagement either on the findings or on their concerns about it. We therefore believe that criticism of the study in the last few days is not based on substantive engagement with the reports. A significant amount of public money has been used on these reports which have been in government possession for a considerable period. But we do not believe that government has as yet done its job of responding to these reports in a purposeful and meaningful way.

For further comment please contact:
• Adele Kirsten - 082-853-9776
• David Bruce - 082-784-8616

Note:  In 2007 the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation was contracted by government to carry out a study on the violent nature of crime in South Africa. The study was completed in February 2009. Including a supplementary report (completed in April 2009) the study involved the production of seven reports (see www.csvr.org.za/violencestudy).    On Tuesday this study was the subject of a briefing to the Portfolio Committee on police by the Deputy Minister of Police assisted by members of the Secretariat for Safety and Security.  


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