State's appeal against high court Torture Docket judgment dismissed

Lawyers for Human Rights - representing the Southern Africa Litigation Centre and Zimbabwe Exiles Forum - welcomes the Supreme Court of Appeal’s judgment, dismissing an appeal of the 2012 High Court decision setting aside the decision of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and South African Police Service (SAPS) not to initiate an investigation into crimes against humanity committed in Zimbabwe.

The landmark case relates to evidence of crimes against humanity committed during a police raid on the MDC’s headquarters in Zimbabwe in 2007. The case was brought to determine South Africa's obligation under international and domestic law to ensure that those who are alleged to have committed the world's worst crimes are held accountable.

The NPA and SAPS petitioned the Supreme Court of Appeal after the High Court refused leave to appeal. The appeal hearing was heard on 1 November 2013.

In 2008, SALC submitted a dossier to the NPA containing comprehensive evidence of the involvement of 18 Zimbabwean security officials in perpetrating torture, and requested the NPA and the SAPS to initiate an investigation. On 8 May 2012 Judge Hans Fabricius ruled in SALC’s favour and ordered the NPA and SAPS to initiate an investigation. The NPA and SAPS appealed this decision to the Supreme Court of Appeal.

The Supreme Court of Appeal has found that the SAPS does have an obligation to investigate cases of alleged international crimes under South Africa’s own Implementation of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court Act. While the Court recognised that state sovereignty is an issue in these types of cases, there is nothing in the principle of state sovereignty which stops South Africa from investigating allegations within its own territory.

“The Court specifically stated that this is one of the first cases before South African courts dealing with jurisdiction for international crimes. We anticipate that this will be the first in a long line of cases developing this area of the law.”

Post published in: Politics

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