SA court upholds landmark order to probe Zim crimes against humanity

via SA court upholds landmark order to probe Zim crimes against humanity | SW Radio Africa by Alex Bell  November 27, 2013

The Supreme Court of Appeal in South Africa on Wednesday upheld a landmark legal order, compelling the prosecuting authorities in that country to investigate crimes against humanity perpetrated in Zimbabwe.

Last year the North Gauteng High Court ruled that the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) in South Africa and the country’s police must investigate state-sanctioned torture and other crimes against humanity committed by Zimbabwean officials in 2007. The Court said that the authorities had a duty to probe allegations of torture as required by the Rome Statute, which South Africa is a signatory to.

The Statute is the foundation for the International Criminal Court and as a signatory, South Africa is committed to investigate and prosecute perpetrators of serious international crimes.

But earlier this month the NPA and the police approached the Supreme Court of Appeal in an effort to have the court order overturned. The authorities argued that that the international laws which the North Gauteng High Court based its original ruling on had been ‘misinterpreted’. The SA government had also previously argued that undertaking such investigations would interfere with its political mediation efforts in Zimbabwe.

The ruling by the Supreme Court of Appeal was delivered on Wednesday, with the full bench of five judges upholding the original, landmark order, passed down by the lower court. Described as a “landmark decision for local and international justice,” the ruling made it clear that the perpetrators of the crimes in Zimbabwe can be held accountable in South Africa regardless of where the offending acts took place. The Court noted that such crimes strike “at the whole of humankind and impinge on the international conscience.”

The case was led by the Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC) and the Zimbabwe Exiles Forum (ZEF) and was based on a dossier detailing a politically motivated attack on MDC members in Zimbabwe in 2007. This dossier was handed to the NPA in 2008 but the prosecuting body and the police decided not to take the case further.

ZEF Director Gabriel Shumba told SW Radio Africa on Wednesday that the Supreme Court of Appeal’s ruling is “a huge victory for the international struggle against impunity.”

“This order really seeks to narrow the divide between those in power and normal citizens, so that those in power cannot willy-nilly abuse its citizens,” Shumba said.

The court’s decision is being welcomed by other human rights and justice activists in Southern Africa, because of the precedent it sets for the rule of law. According to SALC Deputy Director Priti Patel the ruling “confirms that the dispensing of international justice is not restricted to international forums, and commits the South African authorities to play their part in ensuring that torturers and other international criminals are held accountable for their actions.”

The Lawyers for Human Rights group in South Africa, which represented SALC and the ZEF, also welcomed the ruling as fundamental.

“The Court specifically stated that this is one of the first cases before South African courts dealing with jurisdiction for international crimes. We anticipate that this will be the first in a long line of cases developing this area of the law,” the lawyers group said.

Former Chegutu farmer turned activist, Ben Freeth, meanwhile also applauded the Supreme Court of Appeal’s decision, saying “crimes against humanity have continued for far too long in Zimbabwe.”

“This opens up the road to pursue international criminal law – and slowly will begin to be part of closing down the culture of impunity through which the dictatorship is able to continue to destroy the lives of so many – and block the future for the next generation,” Freeth said.



  • comment-avatar
    Doris 10 years ago

    At last there is hope for those of us who have suffered under the evil hand of ZanuPF and its members. I just hope and pray that justice will finally prevail and we will be able to see that the rest of Africa will stand up against physical and mental violence.

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    William Doctor 10 years ago

    Good. Now what we need is an investigation into the collapse of the economy and of agriculture.

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    This is yet another act of solidarity although it is judicial. Zanupf used its courts to bulldoze into elections whose results had already been tailored. This court now has come out with its verdict in solidarity with the persecuted Zimbabweans denied justice in their own country. This would not be necessary if the perpetrators had been taken to court in Zimbabwe. It also throws a big challenge to the ANC who have openly said that they support Zanupf. In the words of Nkosazana Zuma “it is up to Zimbabwens to respect the decisions of their courts or not” after the SADC Maputo Meeting on Zimbabwe. It is therefore now up to the South Africans to respect decisions of their courts or not.

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    Naison Nyereyegona 10 years ago

    Block our comments all you want but your war is an unjust one and you will never succeed. You will grow old like others before you who ran this for the past 14 years and nothing was achieved. Zanu Pf will win for the next 1000 years as long as people like you continue to pursue injustice under the cover of democracy.

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    Naison Nyereyegona 10 years ago

    We will now fight back against Apartheid justice system in South Africa. One by one, apartheid judges will answer to the forces of revolution. They should set up tribunals to try Apartheid practitioners and leave Zimbabwe alone. Justice is coming to South Africa and those unaware will suffer a rude awakening one day. The forces of revolution are circling apartheid.

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    Sekuru Mapenga 10 years ago

    This is a great victory for justice. However it seems unlikely that the South African authorities will pursue these torture cases with any real commitment.

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    Bruce 10 years ago

    the decision to uphold the ruling is very good. What is left is that at the border any or any point of entry into SA, there should be a data base for all the perpetrators of state sponsor crime against humanity. The first names should be of Mugabe, Chihuri, Chiwenga and Bonyongo for sanctioning the murdering of over 2000 opposition members in 2008, and went ahead to celebrate victory after people could not even turn up to vote due to fear. The same law should be extended to all countries who are signatory to the Rome Statute. This group is very easy to catch because they like travelling and shopping in SA, since they have killed agriculture and any other functioning industry in Zimbabwe prior to the land reforme. The guise of being on UN invitation and yet land in USA, UK, German or any such countries must be not an excuse. UN as a body corporate owns no soil, hence if they are to be excused they should land on the UN soil if it exist to be exonerated. Other wise they should be arrested as soon as they step out of the plane on the air port belonging to the state not UN offices. It will be a decision they have to make to attend if they know they are clean. This statute up held in SA will set a good example to all pepetrators of state sponsored violence against humaninty, locally and globally.

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    Parangeta 10 years ago

    Naison is an ostrich!
    Agree, the UN has no airport, arrest Mugarbage and looters at JFK, I say!