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

Cambodia Seeks Official UN Maps for Vietnam Border

Notice of request comes as 2 countries open border talks Tuesday after a clash last month More

From South Africa to Vietnam, Cyclists Deliver Message Against Rhino Horns

Appalled by poaching they saw firsthand, sisters embark on tour to raise awareness in countries where rhino horn products are in demand More

Uber Wants Johannesburg Police Protection

Request follows recent protests outside ride-hailing service's Johannesburg office More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
New Implant Could Help Restore Movement to Paralyzed Limbsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
Maia Pujara
July 07, 2015 10:01 PM
A half-million people suffer spinal cord injuries each year because of car accidents, serious falls and diseases, according to the World Health Organization. Researchers are now working on a soft but strong spinal cord implant that could one day restore movement in paralyzed individuals. VOA’s Maia Pujara reports.
Video

Video New Implant Could Help Restore Movement to Paralyzed Limbs

A half-million people suffer spinal cord injuries each year because of car accidents, serious falls and diseases, according to the World Health Organization. Researchers are now working on a soft but strong spinal cord implant that could one day restore movement in paralyzed individuals. VOA’s Maia Pujara reports.
Video

Video Getting it Done Beyond a Nuclear Deal

If a nuclear deal is reached between Iran and world powers in Vienna, it will be a highly technical road map to be used to monitor nuclear activity in Iran for years to come to ensure Tehran does not make nuclear weapons. Equally as complicated will be dismantling international sanctions that were originally intended to be ironclad. VOA’s Heather Murdock talks to experts about the key challenges any deal will present.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.

VOA Blogs