Mark Heywood, director of public interest law centre Section27, testified in aggravation of sentence in Basson’s professional conduct hearing before the Health Professions Council.
He presented two petitions to the professional conduct committee which in December last year found Basson guilty of unprofessional conduct as a medical doctor when he headed the apartheid government’s chemical and biological warfare programme between 1981 and 1992.
The committee now has to decide on Basson’s fate.
The HPCSA held his conduct was medically unethical when he co-ordinated the production of large quantities of illegal psycho-active drugs, equipped mortars with teargas and provided military operatives with disorientating substances to facilitate illegal cross-border kidnappings.
It also found that he had acted unethically by making cyanide capsules available to South African soldiers for suicide purposes to avoid revealing information under torture.
The Council ruled he had violated the medical ethical principle of “first do no harm”.
One petition represents the views of 230 top health care professionals, including a number of eminent academics while the other the views of 32 civil rights organisations.
Both petitions support Basson being forbidden to ever practice medicine again.
Heywood stressed that his evidence was “not just a nonsense public relations exercise”, but concerned the integrity of the profession and wider medical ethical issues applicable to other countries as well.
Basson’s advocate Jaap Cilliers objected to Heywood’s evidence as irrelevant and twice referred to it as “nonsense”.
Heywood in turn objected to Cilliers “intimidating” him and asked the senior advocate “to control himself”.
The committee ruled that Heywood’s evidence should be presented, even thought it might possibly be of little legal value in the hearing.
The medical health professionals said in their petition a “slap on the wrist” would give Basson impunity for what he did, which threatened democracy.
They said Basson has consistently denied any wrongdoing and they found it deeply disturbing that he was “clearly out of touch with the ethical norms of his profession”.
The civil rights groups said many health professionals and people in the community were “disgusted with Basson’s contempt for ethical norms, human rights and justice”.
They said his contempt for the process of holding him accountable “added proof that he has no moral insight into taking responsibility for his failure to follow ethical standards”.
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