The Supreme Court of Appeal has granted the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and the South African Police Service (SAPS) leave to appeal the Zimbabwe Torture Case in which the North Gauteng High Court ordered the NPA and SAPS to investigate crimes against humanity committed in Zimbabwe.

The Supreme Court of Appeal is however likely to limit legal argument to the interpretation of the section 4(1) and section 4(3)(c) of the Implementation of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court Act (ICC Act). These provisions deal with the jurisdiction of the South African authorities to investigate international crimes committed beyond South Africa’s borders. The following findings of the High Court will therefore not be challenged: that a reasonable basis exists to believe that crimes against humanity were committed in Zimbabwe; that the NPA and SAPS did not take South Africa’s international obligations into consideration in taking the decision not to investigate; the nature and extent of the obligation of the NPA and SAPS to investigate and prosecute international crimes; the evidentiary threshold for triggering an investigation in terms of the ICC Act;  and the (ir)relevance of political considerations in relation to decisions taken to investigate under the ICC Act.

Hearing dates have not been allocated. More information about the Zimbabwe Torture Case and the Appeal is available HERE. For regular updates on this and other cases follow SALC on Twitter @follow_salc

According to United Nations statistics South Africa accounted for one fifth of the world’s asylum applications, registering a staggering 180 600 applications in 2010 alone, making South Africa the most sought after destination for asylum seekers in the world. Not every one of those persons would have been successful; in fact, if South Africa’s immigration authorities did their job properly, some would have been turned  away, the deserving would be allowed to stay and some would have been found to be ineligible. With regard to ineligibility, South Africa is, under international refugee law,  prohibited from extending protections to persons if there is reason to believe that he or she has been involved in the commission of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. This prohibition is contained in the exclusion provisions, found in virtually every domestic refugee act around the world, and is perhaps a country’s first line of defence against becoming a safe haven for international offenders.

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The Public Interest Law Gathering held at Wits University from 11-13 July 2012 was a collaborative event, hosted by a number of highly respected and committed human rights organisations.  SALC was one of the host organisations and also presented two panels: one on ‘Litigating Against Loitering Laws: protecting the rights of marginalised populations’ and another on South Africa’s international criminal law obligations. The international criminal law presentation discussed potential prosecutions of international crimes both in South Africa and abroad. This was particularly topical, coming soon after the North Gauteng High Court declared that South African officials were obliged to investigate certain allegations of crimes against humanity in Zimbabwe. The key question was what the implications of legal action in countries other than where the crimes were committed – an ‘exporting’ of jurisdiction – were for South Africa. Read the rest of this entry »

 

The AU Summit is under way in Ethiopia. After the last minute change of venue, following Malawi’s refusal to host ICC indictee Omar al-Bashir, international justice will certainly be on the agenda. The heads of state will also decide  whether to adopt a protocol that will expand the jurisdiction of the African Court on Human and People’s Rights to include international criminal jurisdiction and a draft model law on universal jurisdiction will also be discussed. This Summit may also usher in new leadership with South Africa’s Dlamini-Zuma vying for the position of AU Chairperson. This is certainly a Summit to watch, the outcomes of which have the potential to change the legal and political landscape in relation to international criminal justice on the continent.

Against this backdrop African civil society organisations have written to African states calling on them to strengthen their support for international justice and accountability. Read the letter below

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Malawi’s president, Joyce Banda, continues to impress. See the latest press release from African civil society organisations regarding Malawi’s decision not to host the AU Summit. The Summit will now be hosted at the AU Headquarters in Ethiopia, which is not a Rome Statute signatory.

(Johannesburg, June 8, 2012) –The Malawi government showed strong support for victims of international crimes by deciding not to be the host of the African Union (AU) summit if President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan is allowed to attend, African civil society organizations and international organizations with a presence in Africa said today.

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At the end of March the North Gauteng High Court reserved judgment in SALC’s landmark torture case in which SALC and the Zimbabwe Exiles Forum asked the High Court to set aside a decision of South Africa’s National Prosecuting Authority and police service not to investigate and prosecute high level Zimbabwean officials accused of torture. The case, the first to be brought in terms of South Africa’s domestic Rome Statute Act, raises important questions about the content and nature of South Africa’s obligations to investigate and prosecute international crimes. Although the judgment is only expected in May 2012, the issues raised certainly provide food for thought. 

In this regard, Christopher Gevers of the University of Kwazulu Natal provides an excellent analysis of the case through the lense of universal jurisdiction on EJIL:Talk, the European Journal of International Law blog.

 The blog post is titled The Application of Universal Jurisdiction in South African Law and to wet your appetite, this is Gevers’ overall impression of the case:

Having witnessed the judge’s handling of the case, I would certainly not characterize him as a shrinking violet, quite the contrary. Equally so, it was clear that he had a complete and considerable grasp of all of the complex issues raised by the parties, as well as the significance of the case both from the perspective of the victims, and its broader context. All this augurs well for those of us looking for a wide-ranging, precedent-setting judgment fitting of the inaugural judicial pronouncement on South Africa’s ICC Act.”

 

 

The Southern Africa Litigation Centre and REDRESS are pleased to share the Report, Closing the Impunity Gap – Southern Africa’s Role in Securing Justice for the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda. Read the rest of this entry »