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The Zimbabwe torture docket decision and proactive complementarity
19 November 2015

The decision of a landmark case heard in the South African Constitutional Court means there is an obligation for states to complement the work of the International Criminal Court – extending the court’s influence in prosecuting serious crimes of international concern in states where it does not have jurisdiction under the Rome Statute. The court found that the South African security authorities, exercising South Africa’s universal jurisdiction, are obliged by law to investigate international crimes committed in Zimbabwe, which is not a state party to the ICC. The decision establishes a progressive framework for prosecuting international crimes, provides a powerful tool against impunity, and confirms that states can and must play a complementary role in pursuing the aims of international criminal justice in respect of non-states parties.

About the author

Max du Plessis (B.Iuris SA, LLB Natal, LLM Cambridge, PhD University of KwaZulu-Natal) is an associate professor at the University of KwaZulu-Natal and a practising advocate in South Africa. He is also an associate tenant at Doughty Street Chambers, London, and a senior research associate at the Institute for Security Studies.

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