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‘Rhodes alleged rapist reference list a violation of human rights’

Vice Chancellor Sizwe Mabizela the accused students, named on the list, are innocent until proven guilty.

Rhodes University students show thier support for the Chapter 2.12 camapign against victim blaming and rape culture on campus. Pictur: EWN/Siyabonga Sesant

GRAHAMSTOWN - Rhodes University has called for the so-called 'reference list' of eleven alleged rapists posted online to be removed from social networks, warning that accusations - without charges being laid - violate human rights.

The university says only two cases of rape have been reported this year, of which one was withdrawn.

It's set up a task team to investigate the extent of sexual assault at the institution, as well as an overhaul of the reporting system that's been described as insensitive.

Rhodes Vice Chancellor Dr Sizwe Mabizela says the students accused of rape are innocent until proven guilty, and the reference list is a violation of their rights.

"It is extremely damaging, and we are of the view that it is unconstitutional. Rhodes University cannot condone the sharing of such information, which is a complete violation of another's rights. It destroys the presumption of innocence."

Mabizela says after the list was published, the alleged rapists were rounded up and one of them was held overnight by the students.

"A call was made for students to gather in front of the Steve Biko building. A big group of students started to march from residence to residence, taking them to the whole group. That was a huge violation of their rights and we disapprove of that."

Following a week of demonstrations, the vice chancellor says the university intends to reopen on Monday, despite its refusal to suspend the 11 students on the list.

RHODES TO DISCUSS TASK TEAM 'TERMS OF REFERENCE'

The university has also announced a new task team to investigate the broader problem of rape at the institution and says it will also introduce urgent interventions such as the use of external prosecutors to deal with allegations of sexual assault.

Mabizela says one of the most pertinent questions the task team will address is whether the university has the capacity to investigate and prosecute cases of sexual assault.

"We must ask ourselves if we have the capacity, capability and expertise that are required to successfully prosecute a crime of rape."

Mabizela says they are also instituting immediate change.

"We have committed to using external prosecutors to deal with cases of rape."

He says they will also address claims that Rhodes harassment officers are insensitive.

"We have committed to increasing the capacity of our harassment office so that survivors of rape and sexual violence are attended to without any delay."

The newly set up task team is currently meeting on campus with some of the students who have proposed changes to its purpose and time frames.

'I AM NOT GUILTY'

Yesterday, one of the accused took to social media to deny the allegations levelled against him.

He released a personal statement saying he is not guilty, he is willing to co-operate with the authorities.

He has also expressed his support for the current demonstrations on campus.

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