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S. African Court Hears Torture Case Against High Level Zimbabwe Officials

  • Tatenda Gumbo

The case, filed by the Southern Africa Litigation Centre and the Zimbabwe Exiles Forum, challenges the decision by South Africa National Prosecuting Authority and police for not investigating and prosecuting top Zimbabwean officials alleged to have sanctioned the use of torture

A South African court yesterday began hearing a case in which activists are seeking to force prosecutors to investigate high-level Zimbabwean officials accused of torturing opposition supporters in the run-up to the bloody 2008 election.

South African prosecutors have in the past refused to investigate the allegations.

The case, filed by the Southern Africa Litigation Centre and the Zimbabwe Exiles Forum, challenges the decision by South Africa National Prosecuting Authority and police for not investigating and prosecuting top Zimbabwean officials alleged to have sanctioned the use of torture against Movement for Democratic Change activists in a 2007 raid of the party's headquarters.

Advocate Wim Trengrove told the judge "a crime against humanity is a crime under South African domestic law, wherever it is committed.

"One should not prejudge the matter by simply saying it will not work. If everyone did that the purpose of the Rome Statue would be defeated," said Trengrove.

If the ruling is upheld and the Zimbabwean officials are found guilty, they can be arrested if they travel to South Africa. The names of the officials have not been released.

Director Nicole Fritz of the Southern Africa Litigation Centre told VOA's Tatenda Gumbo authorities in South Africa must act since the country is signatory to international tenets against torture.

"They said they did not have power under the International Criminal Court Act to investigate these crimes, that's not true, they do have such power," said Fritz,

"They said they did not have such a duty, we've maintained we believe we have the law on our side there is such a duty, there is reasonable suspicion to launch an investigation."

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