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


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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Today the North Gauteng High Court dismissed an application for leave to appeal against the judgment delivered in Southern African Litigation Centre and Another v National Director of Public Prosecutions and Others by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) South African police (SAPS).

You’ll remember that last month the High Court ruled in SALC’s favour when it found that the NPA and SAPS’ decision not to initiate an investigation into crimes against humanity committed in Zimbabwe was unlawful because they failed to take into consideration South Africa’s international obligations in terms of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and domestic legislation giving effect to these obligations. The NPA and SAPS were therefore ordered to initiate an investigation. They challenged this decision on a number of grounds, all of which were dismissed, and Judge Hans Fabricius concluded that an appeal held no reasonable prospects of success.

Read the press release below:

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ImageSALC and the Zimbabwe Exiles Forum are thrilled to announce that the North Gauteng High Court ruled in SALC’s favour in the Zimbabwe Torture Case. Judge Hans Fabrius ruled that the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and the South African Police Service (SAPS) failed to take South Africa’s international criminal law obligations into account when they refused to initiate an investigation into crimes against humanity committed in Zimbabwe, despite SALC providing credible information in this regard. The NPA and SAPS must now revisit their initial decision in accordance with the detailed order of the Court. 

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With just over two months before the 19th African Union Summit kicks off in Malawi, it is being asked whether Malawi will allow indicted Sudanese president, Omar Al-Bashir, to attend the Summit. It has been reported that Africa’s newest president, Joyce Banda, does not want to host Bashir and has asked the AU to encourage Sudan to send someone else in his place. This decision, at least on the face of it, is positive and certainly the right thing to do.  The way in which she is handling the issue however, is perhaps not what one would expect from an African leader that has, in a very short space of time, proved herself to be a no-nonsense and forward thinking president.

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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.”



On 26 March 2012 SALC and the Zimbabwean Exiles Forum (ZEF) will go to court to argue that South Africa, through the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and the South African Police Services (SAPS), is required in terms of both international and South African law, to investigate and prosecute perpetrators of international crimes.

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SALC is an active member of the African Network of International Criminal Justice, an informal network of African civil society organizations and international organizations with a presence in Africa working on Africa and the International Criminal Court (ICC). The Network has been doing some fantastic work. Its efforts demonstrate the importance of an active civil society in the fight against impunity in Africa. Read the rest of this entry »


Sanctions, an arms embargo, asset freezing, a travel ban and a Security Council referral in terms of  the Rome Statute.  Security Council Resolution 1970 comes as a welcome change after the initial echoes of condemnation, amounting to nothing more than a firm tongue lashing, seemingly failed to appreciate the gravity of the Libyan situation. And today ICC Prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, formally announced the ICC’s intention to open an investigation into the alleged crimes against humanity committed by Gaddafi, his sons and his “inner circle”. Read the rest of this entry »