South African court orders probe of Zimbabwe torture allegations


South Africa’s Supreme Court of Appeal ruled that the country’s police should investigate alleged crimes against humanity in neighboring Zimbabwe.

The charges of “widespread and systematic torture” are serious enough for South African authorities to pursue their perpetrators even if the wrongdoing was committed in another country, the Bloemfontein-based court ruled today. It rejected an appeal from the police and state prosecutors who argued they didn’t have any jurisdiction.

South Africa’s membership of the International Criminal Court means its authorities must look into such allegations, the nation’s second-highest court said in its ruling.

The Southern African Human Rights Litigation Centre and the Pretoria-based Zimbabwe Exiles Forum brought the case after providing South African prosecutors evidence that Zimbabwean officials were involved in torturing opposition members in 2007.

About 200 people were killed by militia linked to President Robert Mugabe’s ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front during disputed elections in 2008, while at least 12,000 people were tortured at bases run by these groups and more than 28,000 displaced by the violence, according to London-based Amnesty International.

Mugabe extended his 33 years in power in elections in July.