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SAfrica-truth-AIDS: Apartheid forces spread AIDS: S. Africa's truth body

Agence France-Presse - November 12, 1999

JOHANNESBURG, Nov 12 (AFP) - Two apartheid-era security officers have asked South Africa's truth commission for amnesty for their part in the use of turned freedom fighters to spread the deadly disease AIDS in 1990, it said Thursday.

They have implicated four of their former colleagues and four fighters -- members of the anti-apartheid African National Congress (ANC) and smaller Pan Africanist Congress who crossed sides, The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) said.

"The askaris (fighters) who had AIDS were used to spread the disease by infecting prostitutes in two Hillbrow hotels, the Chelsea and Little Rose, in May 1990," the commission said in a statement.

The applicants, Willie Nortje and Andries van Heerden, will appear before the commission's amnesty committee next week.

One of those implicated is apartheid assassin Eugene de Kock, who is serving a 262-year sentence for crimes he committed while heading a police death squad unit, called Vlakplaas, based near Pretoria.

The amnesty applicants were also Vlakplaas operatives and worked for the new government's National Intelligence Agency after apartheid ended in 1994.

De Kock, once a colonel, is seeking amnesty for more than 100 incidents of murder, torture and fraud, for which has been nicknamed "Prime Evil."

The TRC was set up in 1995 -- after the ANC came to power in the first all-race elections on April 27, 1994 -- and was tasked with investigating apartheid-era human rights abuses.

Its amnesty committee can grant pardons for atrocities committed under apartheid provided it is clear that they were politically motivated and that applicants disclose all details.

It has received about 7,100 applications for amnesty, but only pronounced on a portion of these, and is likely to continue working well into next year.

The TRC in October presented a five-volume report of its findings, primarily that the apartheid regime was responsible for most atrocities although liberation groups, including the ANC, had played a part.

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