ZIMBABWEAN Exiles Forum (Zef) last week filed a case against senior Zanu PF and Zimbabwean government officials at the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) in South Africa for the alleged torture of people in Zimbabwe during a police raid on the MDC-T party headquarters at Harvest House in 2007.
By Herbert Moyo
Zef hopes the case will kick-start a process culminating in the officials’ prosecution by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for alleged crimes against humanity.
A full bench of the SCA reserved its judgment last Friday in the case in which Zef and the Southern Africa Litigation Centre (Salc) are arguing that under South Africa’s commitments to the ICC, prosecutors must take action against high-level Zimbabwean officials accused of torture.
The court was seized with the question of whether or not South African authorities have jurisdiction to investigate allegations of international crimes and what circumstances would trigger an investigation.
Zef chairperson Gabriel Shumba told the Zimbabwe Independent on Wednesday that notwithstanding Zimbabwe’s failure to ratify the Rome Treaty that set up the ICC, the SCA’s judgment could facilitate the prosecution of the officials by the ICC.
“Yes, only if it is unwilling or unable to prosecute,” Shumba said in response to questions whether the ICC can prosecute nationals from a country which did not ratify the ICC treaty.
“The Security Council can also recommend a referral of Zimbabwe, even if it hasn’t ratified the Rome Statute. A new government (in Zimbabwe) can also submit to the jurisdiction of the ICC for crimes committed after the court came into being in 2002.”
Angela Mudukuti, Salc’s international criminal justice project lawyer, expressed optimism for a favourable court decision, saying this will also “encourage adherence to local and international legal obligations in order to prevent South Africa from becoming a safe haven for suspected perpetrators of international crimes”.
Shumba concurred with Mudukuti, adding that “it cannot be correct that those who torture and dehumanise others escape on arguments that to me are like political excuses designed to escape legal obligations to end impunity in Africa”.
SCA also heard arguments from the South African Police Services and the National Prosecuting Authority who declined to investigate the alleged crimes saying they had no jurisdiction over their Zimbabwean counterparts.