THE South African Supreme Court of Appeal yesterday ordered the South African Police Service (Saps) to investigate high ranking Zimbabwean officials connected to the torture of members of opposition parties in 2007.
In a statement yesterday, the South Africa Litigation Centre (Salc) described the judgment as a landmark decision for local and international justice.
“In its judgment, the court made it clear that the perpetrators of systematic torture as was alleged in this case could be held accountable in South Africa regardless of where the offending acts took place. The court noted that such crimes strike ‘at the whole of humankind and impinged on the international conscience’,” the organisation said.
Salc deputy director Priti Patel, whose organisation and the Zimbabwe Exiles Forum (ZEF) took the case to the courts, said: “The court’s decision makes it clear that South Africa has a legal obligation to investigate the perpetrators of international crimes wherever those crimes were committed.
“The Supreme Court ruling confirms that the dispensing of international justice is not restricted to international forums and commits the South African authorities to play their part in ensuring that torturers and other international criminals are held accountable for their actions.”
ZEF chairperson Gabriel Shumba said: “Zimbabweans can be proud today knowing that South Africa will not shirk from its responsibility to ensure justice for victims of crimes against humanity. This judgment is a critical step in the international fight against impunity.”
According to the statement, Salc submitted a dossier to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) in 2008 containing evidence of the involvement of key Zimbabwean officials in perpetrating crimes against humanity in relation to the torture of opposition party members in March 2007. The organisation called on the NPA and the Saps to initiate an investigation into the alleged crimes.
“The NPA and Saps refused to investigate so Salc and ZEF appealed this administrative decision to the High Court, which ruled in their favour in 2012. That decision was appealed to the Supreme Court of Appeal,” the statement reads.
“During its ruling today, the Supreme Court outlined the evidence in the dossier noting that it included evidence of severe physical assaults, including the use of baseball bats, water-boarding and electrical shocks being applied to genitalia by Zimbabwean officials.”
Salc and ZEF were represented by Lawyers for Human Rights and by Advocate Wim Trengove SC, Advocate Gilbert Marcus SC and Advocate Max du Plessis.