Khulumani welcomes the landmark decision handed down this morning by the North Gauteng High Court that the South African authorities must investigate Zimbabwean officials, who are accused of involvement in torture and crimes against humanity in Zimbabwe.
The litigants, the Southern African Litigation Centre (SALC) and the Zimbabwe Exiles’ Forum (ZEF) expressed appreciation for the very strong ruling of Judge Hans Fabricius which asserted that the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and the South African Police Services (SAPS) had acted unconstitutionally and unlawfully in not taking forward the original investigation into Zimbabwean officials linked to acts of state-sanctioned torture (SEE PRESS RELEASE ATTACHED).
It has been an unacceptable reality that the member countries of the South African Development Community have refused up to the present, to investigate and prosecute perpetrators whenever they travel to South Africa and other SADC jurisdictions.
Rather than build a track record of building accountability and ending impunity, the SADC Heads of State decided to suspend the SADC tribunal after the Tribunal found that Zimbabwe had violated the right of access to the courts of the late white Zimbabwean farmer, Mr Mike Campbell and other white farmers. This represented a clear indication of SADC's unwillingness to hold the government of Zimbabwe accountable for human rights abuses.
Nicole Fritz, SALC Executive Director has explained that the judgment “has underlined in the strongest terms South Africa’s obligations under international law to investigate” and prosecute perpetrators of international crimes regardless of where they are committed or by whom. “It is a major step forward for international criminal justice.” The case was brought in terms of South Africa’s International Criminal Court Act, which defines torture as a crime against humanity.
Khulumani warmly congratulates the Zimbabwe Exiles’ Forum and the Southern African Litigation Centre on this court victory. It is our hope that the South African government will respect the court order and begin to meet the country’s domestic and international human rights obligations.
Towards this end, it is our hope that this judgment will serve to secure the commitment from the South African government to supporting the work of the Priority Crimes Unit in the National Prosecuting Authority through the allocation of appropriate financial, human and other resources to enable this Unit to carry out its mandate. The Unit has to date been constrained in its capacity to execute its mandate due to the lack of financial and political support for its important work. For Khulumani, the effective and independent functioning of this Unit is critical in securing the prosecution of the perpetrators of apartheid crimes who were refused amnesty by the TRC as well as those who shunned the TRC process.
The struggle against impunity is a shared struggle in our region. We are grateful that there may finally be some justice for those who have had to flee political persecution in Zimbabwe to find refuge in extraordinarily difficult circumstances including being sheltered in the Central Methodist Mission in Johannesburg through the commitment of Khulumani Board Member, Reverend Paul Verryn.
Congratulations to the Zimbabwe Exiles’ Forum and the Southern African Litigation Centre for this important advance in the struggle to end impunity in our region. (SEE PRESS RELEASE ATTACHED).