Zimbabwe Torture Case Reaches South Africa’s Constitutional Court

Johannesburg, 15 May 2014 – On Monday 19 May, the South African Constitutional Court will hear arguments in the ground-breaking Zimbabwe torture case, which was brought by the Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC) and the Zimbabwean Exiles’ Forum (ZEF) to compel South Africa to abide by its domestic and international legal obligations to investigate and prosecute high level Zimbabwean officials accused of crimes against humanity. 

“South Africa’s Supreme Court of Appeal and High Court previous rulings in this case were very clear – the South African authorities have a legal duty to investigate allegations of torture against senior Zimbabwean officials,” said Nicole Fritz, SALC’s Executive Director. “The Constitutional Court now has the opportunity to weigh in and set a historic precedent that will help to end impunity for crimes against humanity wherever they are committed.”

This is the final stage of the landmark case that began in 2008, when ZEF and SALC handed over a dossier of evidence to the South African National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and the South African Police Services (SAPS), which pointed to state-sanctioned torture in Zimbabwe, following a police raid on the headquarters of the Movement for Democratic Change in 2007.

“The South African authorities have spent the past six years using every possible tactic to avoid doing their job - to use the evidence we gave them to investigate and prosecute Zimbabweans suspected of crimes against humanity,” said Gabriel Shumba, ZEF Chairperson. “The Constitutional Court is being asked to make them comply with their international legal obligations - and in the process set an important precedent for the way courts around the world interpret these commitments.”

What: Constitutional Court to hear arguments in Zimbabwe torture case 

Where: Constitutional Court, Johannesburg

When: Monday 19 May at 10:00 am

In May 2012, the North Gauteng High Court set aside the decision of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and the South African Police Services (SAPS) not to initiate an investigation into state-sanctioned torture in Zimbabwe, following a police raid on the headquarters of the Movement for Democratic Change in 2007. The High Court held that the South African authorities had not acted in accordance with their obligations under the domestic legislation and ruled that the decision had been taken unlawfully and unconstitutionally.

The matter was taken on appeal by the authorities and in November 2013 the Supreme Court of Appeal also held that SAPS, in particular, are empowered and required to investigate the crimes against humanity detailed in the dossier. SAPS alone appealed the judgment, taking this matter to the Constitutional Court. 

Issued by:      The Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC)

For more information and interviews contact:

Nicole Fritz, Executive Director SALC

Office + 27 11 587 5068; Cell + 27 82 600 1082; NicoleF@salc.org.za

Angela Mudukuti, SALC International Criminal Justice Project Lawyer:

Office + 27 11 587 5065; Cell +27 76 762 3869; AngelaM@salc.org.za

Gabriel Shumba, Zimbabwe Exiles Forum Chairperson:

Cell +27 72 639 3795 

For live updates from the court:@Follow_SALC

For background on the case: http://www.southernafricalitigationcentre.org/cases/ongoing-cases/challenging-the-npas-refusal-to-act-in-terms-of-the-rome-statute-act/