Activists angry after BRICS Summit protest moved to venue far from gathering of leaders

Gaby Ndongo (Daily Maverick) 23 August 2023

Law enforcement agencies gave permission for a protest against the BRICS Summit — but at a venue nearly 4km from the gathering.

Lesya Karpenko, the Gauteng representative of the Ukrainian Association of South Africa (Uaza), was informed on Tuesday that their protest against the BRICS Summit could go ahead at Innisfree Park in Johannesburg, which, she said, defeated the purpose as the park was about 4km from where the summit was being held.

“We were put here, at the park … not to spoil the picture that Russia is welcome here [in South Africa],” Karpenko said, standing near law enforcement officers from the SAPS and the Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department who were observing the protest.

Video clip: Stop the EACOP protest at the BRICs summit. Watch full video here

“In the morning, there were more police than protesters,” she remarked.

Amnesty International Africa and the All United Amhara Association in South Africa also joined the protest, voicing concerns about human rights violations by BRICS countries.

Uaza called for the immediate withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine. “Currently, Russia is bombing our grain stores and so grain is just being destroyed and nobody is getting it,” Karpenko said.

“We also call for our children to be returned. There are thousands of illegally misplaced children who are detained in Russia, and we want them to be back as soon as possible.

“Leaders of countries [should] demand the immediate release of prisoners of war and political prisoners so that they can get the necessary attention and medical treatment … because they are illegally detained.”

Sibusiso Khasa, a campaigner for Amnesty International South Africa, said civil society was deeply concerned at the Russian crackdown on human rights activists, including anti-war activists.

Khasa said that as a member of the UN Human Rights Council, South Africa was expected to play a key role among BRICS member states in promoting and protecting human rights. This had not recently been evident, as demonstrated by South Africa’s lack of condemnation of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, an action that goes against the UN Charter.

The charter “codifies the major principles of international relations, from sovereign equality of States to the prohibition of the use of force in international relations”.

Khasa said BRICS’ promotion and protection of human rights had regressed. This was evident with the maltreatment of Muslim communities in parts of India and China. Freedom of association, assembly and expression were also consistently violated in India and China, where human rights activists faced intimidation, detention and harassment by state authorities.

Yilmsahewa Tate Kebede, an organiser at the All United Amhara Association in South Africa, said BRICS had to stop giving the current Ethiopian government aid while it was killing and displacing persons who belong to the Amhara ethno-linguistic group, one of the two largest in Ethiopia. DM


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