South Africa’s main opposition Democratic Alliance party is
calling for the prosecution of Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe over alleged
government-sponsored violence on ordinary Zimbabweans. The party said it would
petition United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon for the establishment of
a commission of inquiry to investigate human rights abuses allegedly committed
by President Mugabe and the entire leadership of the ruling ZANU-PF party. But
the Zimbabwe government dismissed the allegations as a nonsensical
western-backed agenda, which would not see the light of day.
Gagnon is an attorney with Human Rights Watch Africa division. From the United
States City of New York, she tells reporter Peter Clottey that President Mugabe
could be prosecuted if it is confirmed by a United Nations investigative
commission that he committed human rights abuses in Zimbabwe.
jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC) would be quite difficult
because Zimbabwe is not a party to the statutes that set up the court. So, the
International Criminal Court would only get involved if the UN Security Council
refers serious crimes to the court for their investigation. So, the first
hurdle would be to try and convince the Security Council that the crimes in
Zimbabwe met the threshold and serious enough to warrant the ICC investigation,”
Gagnon pointed out.
said the UN Security Council would have to first determine if indeed the
Zimbabwe government committed serious human rights abuses before any possible
prosecution could be instituted.
(UN Security Council) would probably first want to carry out an international
commission of inquiry. The Security Council could do that on its own, which
would be sort of a preliminary investigation into what happened in Zimbabwe not
only recently, but also in the 1980s because of course in Zimbabwe Mugabe and
others were alleged to have been involved in serious massacres in Matabeleland
and other places way back, and they have quite a long record of allegations of
very serious crimes. So, it would be useful, for example, for the Security Council
to do some sort of a commission of inquiry into these sorts of events and then
that might give them more of a basis or might convince members of the council
to actually make the referral to the International Criminal Court,” she noted.
said although Zimbabwe is not a signatory to the status that formed the
International Criminal Court, President Mugabe could still be prosecuted if it
is established that he committed human rights abuses.
they can. As your listeners may know, the situation in Darfur was also referred
to the ICC by the Security Council. The prosecutor has carried out
investigations and issued two arrests warrants with more to come. So, the
situation can result in prosecution,” Gagnon pointed out.
reiterated the need for the Security Council to be convinced that there were
serious human rights abuses in Zimbabwe before any possible prosecution.
council would have to really be convinced that this is a situation that merited
a referral, and that is going to be a pretty difficult hurdle, I think, to
overcome because of course at this point the council includes, for example,
South Africa as a non-permanent member, and they may not be so keen to see
Mugabe tried by the International Criminal Court or even that suggestion made,”