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South Africa’s Exercise of Universal Jurisdiction

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An Analysis of the Supreme Court Decision in the National Commissioner of the South African Police Service and Another v Southern Africa Human Rights Litigation Centre and others (2013)

image of International Human Rights Law Review

On 27 November 2013 the Supreme Court of Appeal of South Africa affirmed the decision of the High Court that South Africa’s Implementation of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court Act 2002 (icc Act) empowered South African officials to initiate investigations into crimes against humanity committed in Zimbabwe in the absence of the perpetrators in South Africa. This decision was in response to the true interpretation of section 4(3)(c) of the icc Act providing for universal jurisdiction. This paper examines the judgment of this Court, arguing that though customary international law is silent on the requirement for presence of the perpetrators for initiation of investigation, the Court should have given proper examination of this section by taking into consideration of the previous presence of some of the perpetrators in South Africa after the alleged crimes were committed.

Affiliations: 1: Centre for International & Public Law (cipl), Brunel Law School, London,


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