South African Constitutional Court rules that the police service must investigate crimes against humanity in Zimbabwe

Johannesburg, 30th October 2014: The South African Constitutional Court has unanimously ruled that the South African Police Service (SAPS) must investigate crimes against humanity perpetrated in Zimbabwe in 2007.

The so-called “Zimbabwe torture case” was brought by SRT grantee 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. SALC and ZEF were represented by SRT grantee Lawyers for Human Rights.

In 2008, ZEF and SALC submitted a dossier of evidence to the South African National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and SAPS, detailing state-sanctioned torture in Zimbabwe. They hoped the authorities would initiate investigations, but turned to the courts after SAPS and the NPA refused to investigate.

In May 2012, the North Gauteng High Court set aside the decision of the NPA and SAPS not to initiate an investigation into state-sanctioned torture in Zimbabwe. The High Court ruled that the South African authorities had not acted in compliance with their obligations and held that the decision was unlawful and unconstitutional. On appeal at the Supreme Court of Appeal in November 2013, the Court agreed with SALC and ZEF and ordered the authorities to investigate the crimes against humanity detailed in the dossier. SAPS then launched an appeal at the Constitutional Court, but the Court ruled that investigations must be initiated.

Nicole Fritz, SALC’s Executive Director, said, “South Africa’s highest court has set an important precedent: South Africa will not be a safe haven for perpetrators of the world’s worst crimes. The judgment represents a clear appreciation for the role of international criminal law and its importance to our domestic justice system.”

Full press release from SALC:

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