Cops wil comply with ConCourt order

2014-10-30 17:34

Johannesburg - The SAPS said on Thursday it will comply with the Constitutional Court's order to investigate claims of torture against senior Zimbabwean officials.

"In principle, this is the end of the matter. We are required to comply with the judgment," national police spokesperson Lt-Gen Solomon Makgale said.

"We only got the judgment today. Our legal team is looking at it."

In a unanimous judgment, delivered by acting Justice Stevan Majiedt, the court concluded that the SAPS must investigate the claims because it had a duty to do so, under the Constitution, the ICC Act, and South Africa's international law obligation.

The Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC), who initially brought the case with the Zimbabwean Exiles Forum (Zef) in 2008, said on Thursday South Africa's highest court had set an important precedent.

"South Africa will not be a safe haven for perpetrators of the world's worst crimes" SALC executive director Nicole Fritz said in a statement.

"The judgment represents a clear appreciation for the role of international criminal law and its importance to our domestic justice system."

Zef chair Gabriel Shumba said the forum was thrilled that victims of torture in Zimbabwe had some prospect of seeing justice served.

"But the case doesn't just hold out promise for victims of torture in Zimbabwe," Shumba said.

"Should it be reasonable and practicable for South African authorities to investigate international crimes committed elsewhere - for instance, the Democratic Republic of Congo - potentially the victims of those crimes might approach South Africa's investigating authorities for assistance."

Rome Statute

Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR), who represented the two organisations, welcomed the judgment.

"We are quite happy that the Constitutional Court has come out so strongly in favour of full implementation of South Africa's Rome Statute Act," LHR co-ordinator David Cote said in a statement.

"Universal jurisdiction against the most abominable crimes is a world-wide movement and an important step against impunity."

South Africa is party to the International Criminal Court's (ICC) Rome Statute. It enacted the Implementation of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court Act (the ICC Act) in 2002.

The Constitutional Court held on Thursday that the SAPS had a duty to investigate international crimes. This was limited to instances where the country in which the crimes happened was unwilling or unable to investigate and if, on the facts and circumstances of the particular case, an investigation would be reasonable and practicable.

The court found no evidence that Zimbabwean authorities were willing or able to pursue an investigation and that it would be reasonable and practicable for the SAPS to investigate the complaint, because of the proximity between South Africa and Zimbabwe.

It said there was a likelihood the accused would be in South Africa at some point. There was a reasonable possibility that the SAPS would be able to gather evidence that may satisfy the elements of the crime of torture.

The court held that while the principle of non-intervention in another state's territory had to observed, this would not be violated by an investigation conducted exclusively within South Africa.

State-sanctioned torture

The case was first brought by SALC and Zef in 2008 following a police raid on the headquarters of the Movement for Democratic Change the year before.

They argued that South Africa had domestic and international legal obligations to investigate and prosecute high-level Zimbabwean officials accused of crimes against humanity.

The two bodies handed over a dossier of evidence to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and the police, which allegedly pointed to state-sanctioned torture in Zimbabwe.

In 2012, the High Court in Pretoria held that South African authorities had not acted in accordance with their obligations, and that the decision not to probe the matter had been taken unlawfully and unconstitutionally.

The NPA and police appealed to the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) in November last year.

The SCA held that police, in particular, were empowered and required to investigate the crimes against humanity, as detailed in the dossier.

The national police commissioner then appealed to the Constitutional Court.

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Financial advisors – Do you need one and should you get one?

The good, the bad, and everything else you need to know when considering hiring a financial advisor.


Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.