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

Mood Tense Ahead of Scotland Independence Vote

As race to persuade undecided voters continues, No voters say they believe life in Scotland will slowly improve and do not want to take a risk by endorsing independence More

South Africa’s 'Open Mosque' Admits Everyone, Including Critics

Open Mosque founder plans to welcome gay worshipers and allow women to lead prayers More

Ukrainian Activist in Despair About Future of Her Country

IrIna Dovgan, accused of being a spy and tortured by pro-Russian separatists, is appealing to UN Human Rights Council to support her country 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.
NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Spacei
X
September 17, 2014 4:20 AM
The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid