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Regional Litigators Ask South African Court to Prosecute Zimbabwean Rights Abusers

The Southern African Litigation Center and the Zimbabwe Exiles Forum want the South African High Court to oblige authorities to investigate and prosecute crimes against humanity in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwean and South African non-governmental organizations have asked the South African High Court to rule that police and prosecutors in the country must investigate and prosecute alleged crimes against humanity by Zimbabwean officials.

The Southern African Litigation Center and the Zimbabwe Exiles Forum are asking the High Court to set aside a decision by the National Prosecuting Authority and the South African Police Services not to investigate and prosecute high level Zimbabwean officials alleged to have involved themselves in acts of state-sanctioned torture.

Litigation Center Executive Director Nicole Fritz said the case arose from a docket the group submitted to the NPA documenting torture allegedly committed in Zimbabwe.

Fritz told reporter Violet Gonda that by ratifying the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, South Africa has an opportunity to set an important precedent and ensure that it lives up to its legal responsibilities.

“It also has implications for justice in Zimbabwe. The perpetrators are Zimbabwean, the victims are Zimbabwean, the events took place in Zimbabwe from 2005 to 2007,” Fritz said. "We maintain that there is very little likelihood that perpetrators will receive justice in Zimbabwe, and that they will be made to account."

"So we are seeking to use South Africa’s law both to ensure that South Africa acts as a responsible member of the international community using its courts to bring to justice those responsible for these crimes," Fritz explained.

“We also think it’s in South Africa’s own particular interest to enforce this law so that South Africa is not a safe haven for the worst types of international criminals.”

Fritz said heads of argument were filed in the High Court last week and the case is expected to be heard in March.