According to the Southern African Litigation Centre (SALC), the North Gauteng High Court ruled that South African authorities must investigate Zimbabwean officials, who are accused of involvement in torture and crimes against humanity in Zimbabwe.
“This judgment will send a shiver down the spines of Zimbabwean officials who believed that they would never be held to account for their crimes but now face investigation by the South African authorities,” said Nicole Fritz, Executive Director of SALC, which brought the case to court along with the Zimbabwean Exiles Forum (ZEF).
In his ruling, Judge Hans Fabricius, said the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and the South African Police Services (SAPS) had acted unconstitutionally and unlawfully in not taking forward the original investigation. His judgment also underlined in the strongest terms South Africa’s obligations under international law.
“This decision is not just about Zimbabwe, it also sets a much broader precedent by ruling that South African authorities have a duty to investigate international crimes wherever they take place,” said Fritz.
“It is a major step forward for international criminal justice.”
In March 2012, SALC and ZEF argued in the High Court that the decision of the NPA and SAPS not to investigate Zimbabwean officials linked to acts of state-sanctioned torture should be set aside.
Brought in terms of South Africa’s International Criminal Court Act, which defines torture as a crime against humanity, the applicants’ argued that the NPA and SAPS had failed to take into account South Africa’s international and domestic law obligations to investigate and prosecute perpetrators of international crimes regardless of where they were committed or by whom.
The South Africa government has, in a related matter, refused to make public a report compiled by South African judges on the political violence which took place in Zimbabwe during the 2002 elections.