News / Africa

    South Africa Pushed to Hear Zimbabwe Torture Case

    Anita Powell
    South Africa’s Supreme Court of Appeal is hearing a landmark case that could radically change the human rights scene in Southern Africa.  A legal advocacy group is pushing for South Africa to try a torture case from neighboring Zimbabwe.  The lawyers say South Africa is bound as a member of the International Criminal Court to prosecute crimes against humanity in its region.  The court’s decision could open the door for more such cases.  
     
    The case that lawyers are pushing South Africa to try is a harrowing one.  In 2007, court documents say, Zimbabwe police raided the headquarters of an opposition party and rounded up scores of supporters.
     
    Those arrested say the police beat, water boarded and shocked them, and even held mock executions.  Their lawyers argue that the torture is a crime against humanity because it was so widespread and systematic.
     
    The names of the alleged perpetrators and victims have not been publicly released, though lawyers have said the accused are “high-level officials.”
     
    But the case has faced resistance in South African courts.  That’s because it happened in neighboring Zimbabwe, and prosecutors have argued that they have no obligation to try the case here.
     
    But the Southern African Litigation Center says that South Africa’s own laws oblige them to step in and prosecute crimes against humanity in their region.  Here’s the group’s international criminal justice project lawyer, Angela Mudukuti.
     
    “South Africa has domesticated the Rome Statute, the act is called the Implementation of the Rome Statute Act. It’s a domestic piece of South African legislation.  And in terms of that, South Africa has jurisdiction over crimes against humanity.  Now due to geographical proximity and the possibility of South Africa’s capabilities to try this matter, this is why we brought it before a South African court.  South Africa is uniquely positioned in the sense that we have the correct legislation and we have the support structure to exercise universal jurisdiction and to bring justice to the victims," said Mudukuti.
     
    Diana Zimbudzana, a project coordinator for the Zimbabwean Exiles Forum, says this case is about more than just laws and semantics.  In the end, she says, it’s about justice.
     
    Zimbudzana says she is not one of the plaintiffs in the case, but says she has also been tortured by Zimbabwe officials.  She spoke from outside the court hearing in Bloemfontein on Friday.
     
    “This case should be heard because the victims are there. And they need to see justice being fair and done.  For human rights victims, they can never seek resource and justice in Zimbabwe because of the absence of rule of law," said Zimbudzana.
     
    South Africa’s High Court ruled last year that the nation was obliged to try the case, but South African officials sought an appeal.  Mudukuti says South African officials were hesitant to try the case for political reasons.  The two nations have close diplomatic ties.
     
    She says that this case could have a big impact on human rights in this region.
     
    “I think what this will do is set the correct precedent if the Supreme Court of Appeal upholds the judgement.  It will set the correct precedent and deter suspected international criminals from coming to South Africa," she said.
     
    This case is not the first allegation against Zimbabwean officials for severe human rights abuses.  Western nations years ago slapped sanctions on President Robert Mugabe and his inner circle because of alleged rights abuses.
     
    Zimbabwe, like the United States, has also signed the Rome Treaty establishing the ICC, but has not ratified the treaty.  That means that the UN Security Council would have to refer this case to the ICC.  That is a politically dicey prospect after the African Union condemned the ICC in a special summit in October and ruled that no sitting African head of state should appear before an international court.
     
    Two sitting African heads of state are currently facing cases at the Hague-based court: Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta.

    You May Like

    Hope Remains for Rio Olympic Games

    Facing a host of problems, Rio prepares for holding the games but experts say some risks, like Zika, may not be as grave as initially thought

    Diplomats Hope to Revive Cradle of Civilization After Defeat of IS

    Diplomats from around globe gather at US State Department, discuss how to rebuild minority communities shattered by Islamic State group

    Women Voters Look Past Gender in Assessing Clinton

    She's the first female presidential nominee, but party identification, other factors outweigh gender

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Busi
    X
    July 28, 2016 4:16 AM
    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Philadelphia Uses DNC Spotlight to Profile Historic Role in Founding of United States

    The slogan of the Democratic National Convention now underway in Philadelphia is “Let’s Make History Again” which recognizes the role the city played in the foundation of the United States in the 18th century. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, local institutions are opening their doors in an effort to capitalize on the convention spotlight to draw visitors, and to offer more than just a history lesson.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora