The Constitutional Court. File picture: Tiro Ramatlhatse

Johannebsurg - The Constitutional Court would on Monday hear arguments on whether South African authorities should investigate claims of torture against senior Zimbabwean officials, the SA Litigation Centre (SALC) said.

“The Constitutional Court now has the opportunity to weigh in and set a historic precedent that will help to end impunity for crimes against humanity wherever they are committed,” executive director Nicole Fritz said in a statement.

The case was brought by the SALC and the Zimbabwean Exiles Forum (ZEF).

They argue that South Africa has domestic and international legal obligations to investigate and prosecute high-level Zimbabwean officials accused of crimes against humanity.

The case began in 2008 following a police raid on the headquarters of the Movement for Democratic Change the year before.

SALC and ZEF handed over a dossier of evidence to the National Prosecuting Authority and the police, which pointed to torture in Zimbabwe sanctioned by that state.

In 2012 the High Court in Pretoria held that the South African authorities had not acted in accordance with their obligations, and that the decision not to probe the matter had been taken unlawfully and unconstitutionally.

The NPA and police appealed to the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) in November last year.

Andre Ferreira, for the police, said then that the police could investigate a person allegedly involved in a crime only when that person set foot in the country.

He argued that to spend resources on an investigation where there were no prospects of a prosecution, such as if a foreigner might enter the country, would be wrong because it would lead to nothing.

The SCA held that the police, in particular, are empowered and required to investigate the crimes against humanity, as detailed SALC and ZEF's dossier.

SALC said that the police, and not the NPA, appealed against the judgment leading to the matter coming before the Constitutional Court.