Skip to content


News Posted on February 27, 2013

Professor Bennoune Comments on South African Investigation of Zimbabwe Rape Cases for CBC Radio

Professor Karima Bennoune commented for "The Current," a Canadian Broadcasting Company radio news program, on the government of South Africa's invocation of "universal jurisdiction" to investigate allegations of a campaign of systematic, politically motivated rape in neighboring Zimbabwe.  The investigation comes at the urging of Canadian activist Stephen Lewis, whose organization AIDS-Free World has worked to accumulate evidence of widespread rape by members of the ruling ZANU-PF Party as a means of terror and intimidation during the country's 2008 election campaign.

Professor Bennoune was interviewed in a February 26 segment of "The Current" that included comments from Stephen Lewis, the former UN Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, and other experts. She talked about the importance of universal jurisdiction as a means of addressing international crimes that take place in countries like Zimbabwe that have not ratified the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. Although an actual trial may never take place, since it is unlikely that individuals accused in the rape case would travel to South Africa where they might be arrested and prosecuted, Professor Bennoune said the investigation is still important, especially with a referendum to be held in Zimbabwe in March and general elections in July.

"There is the possibility there could be a trial, but even beyond that there is the very important symbolic impact," she said. "First of all, the victims already are getting an international hearing of what happened to them -- that's incredibly important.  The alleged perpetrators will find themselves ‘landlocked,' in that they will not be able to travel... It will put international scrutiny on the human rights situation in Zimbabwe, specifically with regard to election abuse... I think the sense that the world is watching, and not only that, the important neighbor to the south -- South Africa -- is watching, is incredibly significant."

Karima Bennoune is an author, lecturer, teacher, and international law scholar as well as the first Arab-American to be honored with the Derrick A. Bell Award from the Section on Minority Groups of the Association of American Law Schools.  She joined the King Hall faculty from Rutgers in 2012.  Her current projects include the book Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here: Untold Stories from the Fight against Muslim Fundamentalism, forthcoming from W.W. Norton & Company in August.

CBC Radio: "The Current"