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

Reports of Mass Murder on Mediterranean Smuggler’s Boat

Boat sailed from Libya with 750 migrants aboard and arrived in Italy with 569 More

Video New Thailand Hotline Targets Misbehaving Monks

Officials say move aims to restore country’s image of Buddhism, tarnished by recent high profile scandals such as opulent lifestyle, drug and alcohol abuse, as well as child sex abuse More

Study: Dust from Sahara Helped Form Bahama Islands

What does the Sahara have in common with a Caribbean island? Quite a lot, researchers say More

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

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Astronauts Train in Underwater Labi
X
George Putic
July 25, 2014 7:25 PM
In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid