A groundbeaking judgment was handed down in the North Gauteng High Court, ordering the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and SAPS to investigate crimes against humanity, committed in Zimbabwe in 2007.
The judgment would mean that should such crimes be committed in any country, and those “perpetrators” cross the South African border, South African officials would have to investigate and possibly prosecute them.
In 2007, approximately 100 people were allegedly tortured for days when police (under command of the ruling Zanu-PF) raided the headquarters of the opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change, in Zimbabwe.
A docket with the full details of the crimes, was handed to the NPA. It was then given to SAPS, who turned down a request to launch an investigation, saying the crimes were not committed on South African soil. But the applicants who lodged the case – the South African Litigation Centre (SALC) and Zimbabwean Exiles Forum (ZEF) – argued that the International Criminal Court Act obliged South Africa to investigate.
Judge Hans Fabricius ruled that the Act did indeed demand that South Africa investigates crimes against humanity. “I hereby hand down a mandatory order, with costs, which obliges the respondents to investigate the docket before them.”
Gabriel Shumba, Chairperson of the ZEF, said outside court that he was “extremely ecstatic”, being a torture victim himself. “I believe that this judgment is trendsetting and it really shows…how international law should be interpreted”.
The NPA’s spokesman, Mthunzi Mhaga said that they would study the judgment and see whether “it is applicable or not”.
Audio: Judge Hans Fabricius handing down judgment