News / Africa

S. African Court Orders to Probe Zimbabwe Torture

Opposition party Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) supporters from the rural south of the country show their broken limbs from an assault in the capital Harare, May 3, 2008.
Opposition party Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) supporters from the rural south of the country show their broken limbs from an assault in the capital Harare, May 3, 2008.
Delia Robertson
JOHANNESBURG - South Africa's high court has ordered prosecutors to investigate Zimbabwean officials who alleged committed torture and human rights abuses in the run-up to Zimbabwe's violent and disputed 2008 elections.  The decision has important practical, political and diplomatic implications for South Africa.

Judge Hans Fabricius has ordered the National Prosecuting Authority to investigate accusations contained in a dossier of complaints compiled by the South African Litigation Center and the Zimbabwe Exiles Forum.  Nicole Fritz of the Litigation Center says the complainants accuse 18 Zimbabweans of torture and abuse.

“One is not talking about isolated incidents, it is not one crime," she said.  "We are talking about a huge of number of individuals who can testify to the same type of crime being committed against them.  It is widespread and systematic.”

South Africa is a signatory to the 1998 Rome Statute which brought about the International Criminal Court, and passed implementing legislation in 2002.  Fritz says this enables South Africa to prosecute individuals of human rights crimes committed elsewhere.

“That gives South African investigating and prosecuting authorities power to investigate and prosecute international crimes, genocide crimes against humanity, where the perpetrators of those crimes are present on South African territory after having committed such crimes,” said Fritz.

Fritz says the complainants are members of the Movement for Democratic Change who were detained when the party’s headquarters was raided by security officials of President Robert Mugabe’s government in 2007.  She says a number of the accused officials travel regularly to South Africa, for both official and personal reasons and that the local authorities have enough information to identify and arrest them should they again enter the country.

The names of the accused have not been released and there was no immediate comment from Zimbabwe's government or Mugabe's ZANU-PF party.

Fritz says that, while it is preferable to secure justice in the location in which crimes occur, this is not possible in Zimbabwe because the rule of law there has collapsed and there are no feasible or credible ways to ensure the accused are prosecuted.

Fritz says South Africa played a leading role in negotiating the Rome Statute. "South Africa was once a leader of the international criminal justice project; it led at the Rome negotiations in securing an independent court, its implementing legislation is a model the world over, for what should be done, and the court basically said you need to live up to the vision of those efforts at [the] Rome Statute and the vision that is contained in implementing legislation,” she said.

South Africa has also become home to several individuals wanted in their own countries for crimes against humanity, and Fritz says the ruling is a warning to those who seek to use this country as a safe haven that they cannot expect to enjoy impunity here.

Prosecuting authorities in South Africa are already burdened with a high incidence of serious crime to investigate, and may find it difficult to obtain the resources to investigate several hundred cases of Zimbabwean torture.

Also, the ruling could further complicate South Africa’s role as mediator to the parties in the shaky coalition government in Zimbabwe.

You May Like

Ukraine Purges Interior Ministry Leadership With Pro-Russian Ties

Interior Minister Avakov says 91 people 'in positions of leadership' have been fired, including 8 generals found to have links to past pro-Moscow governments More

US Airlines Point to Additional Problems of any Ebola Travel Ban

Airline officials note that even under travel ban, they may not be able to determine where passenger set out from, as there are no direct flights from Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone More

Nigerian President to Seek Another Term

Goodluck Jonathan has faced intense criticism for failing to stop Boko Haram militants More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid