Politics Gone Cancerous: Why the Marikana Massacre Should be Prosecuted as an International Crime


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What makes the Marikana massacre particularly chilling and poignant is the fact that the use of lethal force on a mass scale was sanctioned by South Africa’s democratically elected government. It also makes the massacre relevant to international law. It will be established in this article that the killing of 34 striking miners by the South African police is a crime that transcends the limits and boundaries of domestic justice. This article will explore an approach to the legal aftermath of Marikana that has not yet received academic attention: the question of whether the Marikana massacre should be prosecuted as an international crime. The article will further consider the factors that will have to be taken into account in classifying the massacre as an international crime. It will be argued that even though instinctively a crime of this scale might seem to reach the gravity of an international crime, the application of the strict legal requirements for international crimes, the policy requirement in the definition of a crime against humanity, the doctrine of complementarity as well as the gravity threshold applied by the International Criminal Court render it complicated but not unlikely that the massacre will be considered an international crime in the sense of meeting the jurisdictional requirements set out for such crimes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)344-358
JournalSocial Dynamics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 16 Sept 2015


  • international law
  • Crimes against humanity
  • torture
  • policy requirement
  • gravity


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