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Rights groups urge South Africa to prosecute Zimbabwe crimes against humanity

Human rights groups commenced legal action on Monday urging South African courts to prosecute citizens of Zimbabwe for crimes against humanity. Rights group claim that South Africa has an obligation under international law [Reuters report] to bring justice to those who commit human rights violations. If South African courts allow claims against Zimbabwe citizens to proceed, the courts could be flooded with litigation against Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] and other top members of the ZANU-PF party, causing diplomatic tension between the two countries. Mugabe has been the president of Zimbabwe for over 30 years, during which he has faced multiple accusations of human rights violations. It is uncertain whether South Africa can legally be permitted to open their courts to crimes that were committed in Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe has faced criticism from the international community for human rights violations, particularly within the diamond industry. In August the BBC reported that Zimbabwe security forces are running illegal mining camps [JURIST report] in the country's Marange area where recruited civilian workers are regularly tortured and forced into labor. According to the report, workers are subject to mauling by dogs, multiple beatings and rape. The camps, one of which allegedly has ties to a personal friend of Zimbabwean Mugabe, were reported to have been operating for three years. In May 2011 Zimbabwe's High Court in Harare ordered the release of six prisoners [JURIST report] accused of plotting to overthrow Zimbabwe's president. The former army officers have been in prison since 2007 after being accused of planning to violently topple Mugabe and replace him with the country's defense minister, Emerson Mnangagwa.

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Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

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