Activists ‘hopeful’ ahead of Zim torture ruling

The activists who led a landmark legal challenge in South Africa this week have expressed hope for a favourable ruling, expected in the coming months.

The case, which calls on South Africa to honour its international legal obligations and investigate incidences of torture in Zimbabwe, came to an end in the Pretoria High Court on Thursday. Presiding Judge Hans Fabricius reserved ruling on the matter, but a judgement is expected soon.

The Southern Africa Litigation Centre and the Zimbabwe Exiles Forum filed an application to the court earlier this year hoping to overturn a decision by South Africa’s National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and the police not to investigate high level Zim officials linked to state sanctioned torture in 2007.

Their case is based on a dossier detailing the attack on MDC members in 2007, which was handed to the NPA in 2008. But a formal investigation was never launched.

The court challenge this week argued that South Africa does have a legal obligation to investigate these crimes, because it is a signatory to the Rome Statute. The legal team representing the Litigation Centre and Exiles Forum argued that the NPA and the police had failed in their duties by not instituting an investigation, because Zimbabwean victims have no way to get justice back home.

The Litigation Centre’s Nicole Fritz told SW Radio Africa on Friday that she was pleased with how the case progressed this week, explaining that even Judge Fabricius appeared critical of how the State had handled the issue.

“It would appear that Judge Fabricius is aware and very troubled by the fact that Zimbabwean torture victims have no rights and he seems to be upset by their plight,” Fritz said.

She added: “We seem to have a receptive judge and I’m delighted by what has been the court reaction, so I am confident of a favourable ruling.”

Fabricius appeared particularly critical of the State institution’s arguments that political obligations outweighed their legal obligations, saying he would “through his hands up in horror” if human rights are bested by politics.

Gabriel Shumba, a torture survivor and director of the Exiles Forum, told SW Radio Africa that he is also hopeful that this attitude of the judge will result in a favourable ruling.

“We have reason to hope for the best and reason to be positive,” Shumba said, adding: “This case will set a precedence for combating impunity in Southern Africa.” – SW Radio Africa News

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