Justice needed for victims of violence

Justice needed for victims of violence

AN INNOVATIVE form of justice is needed to deal with the perpetrators of political violence in Zimbabwe so that a culture of extreme violence — like that in SA — does not develop and take hold of the nation's psyche writes Sarah Hudleston in The Weekender, Johannesburg, on Saturday.

Nomfundo Mogapi, trauma and transition programme manager for the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation, says SA's evolution as a violent society was born out of the African National Congress's decision to take up arms to fight the apartheid regime.

With nearly 90 Zimbabwean opposition officials, activists and their families killed in the wake of the March 29 poll , and about 3500 people seriously injured in torture that includes poisoning and having their limbs amputated, there is concern that violence will take root there as well.

During the apartheid years, communities in SA learned how to access arms and work underground , and Mogapi believes this was the first nail in the coffin in creating a violent society — although she says she understands why it was necessary. The second nail in the coffin was how SA dealt with the perpetrators of violence.

"We made a decision as a country for restorative justice and not punitive justice for the sake of peace," Mogapi says. "While it was important to go the restorative route, we could have done much more to promote healing and peace in the country."

She believes there is a civil war in Zimbabwe with no clear-cut enemy, which means punitive justice might have to be sacrificed there too for the sake of peace. Zimbabwe might have to consider an amnesty for perpetrators.

"But this has to involve working with the victims," Mogapi says. "If you give amnesty to criminals and do not work with the victims, then victims feel robbed."

She believes Zimbabwe needs a parallel system, of justice for perpetrators and restorative justice for victims.

During apartheid, she says, South Africans devised a certain way of dealing with problems. "Now people think that for the authorities to hear them, they must use violence. Violence in this country is institutionalised. The security guard strike and the problem of foreigners flooding into SA are cases in point.

"In psychological terms, SA has had a psychotic breakdown.

"I think it is great that the Movement for Democratic Change took a stand for passive resistance, but the other side of this is the long-term effects if it doesn't stop this state-sponsored violence."

Tiseke Kasambala of Human Rights Watch, who worked inside Zimbabwe until a month ago, believes that the perpetrators of violence — particularly since 2000 — should be brought to justice in a manner that is deemed appropriate by the people of Zimbabwe.

She subscribes to both domestic and international legal remedies, "although domestic handling of the issue would depend on the ability of the local judiciary to meet internationally acceptable legal standards".

"Human Rights Watch would welcome the architects of state-sponsored violence being brought to the Hague after a formal investigation, but Zimbabwe is not a signatory to the International Criminal Court statute," Kasambala says.

"However, the United Nations Security Council could intervene and make this possible."

The Movement for Democratic Change's deputy secretary for health, Kerry Kay, who is caring for victims of brutality and torture, says there has to be justice .

Kay's husband Ian was brutally assaulted in 2002 and is now in prison, arrested after winning his seat as MP for Marondera.

"I would say just about every Zimbabwean is traumatised," she says. "Especially those who are on their second or third beating and torture.

"There is a database of perpetrators and it has more than 800 names on it so far. So, whatever happens, they will be brought to book and the masterminds of this terrible genocide will face the International Criminal Court.

"There cannot be healing and reconciliation without justice."

In The Zimbabwean, 28 June 2008

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CSVR is a multi-disciplinary institute that seeks to understand and prevent violence, heal its effects and build sustainable peace at the community, national and regional levels.

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