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.
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Multimedia Relatives of South Korean Ferry Victims Fire at Authorities

46 people are confirmed dead, but some 250 remain trapped inside sunken ferry More

War Legacy Haunts Vietnam, US Relations

$84 million project aims to clean up soil contaminated by Agent Orange More

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid