The commander of the Southern African Development Community Mission in Mozambique (SAMIM) has convened a board of inquiry to investigate the circumstances of a video appearing to show South African soldiers in Mozambique burning bodies of presumed insurgents, in violation of international and South African laws of armed conflict.
In the 20 second video circulated widely on social media, soldiers are seen hurling two dead bodies onto a bonfire of miscellaneous household items, before pouring what appears to fuel onto the flames. One of the soldiers, who has a clearly visible South African flag on the arm of his uniform, is taking pictures on a smartphone. At least a dozen soldiers are present in the scene.
The precise date and location of the video have not been established, but a statement from the South African National Defence Force said it “is believed to have taken place during the month of November 2022 in Mozambique, where South Africa has committed forces as part of the SADC Mission in Mozambique (SAMIM).”
Article 15 of the 1949 Geneva Convention states: “At all times, and particularly after an engagement, Parties to the conflict shall, without delay, take all possible measures to … prevent [the dead from] being despoiled.”
South Africa’s own Law of Armed Conflict Teaching Manual (2008) stipulates that “The remains of and gravesites of all such persons shall be respected, maintained and marked.”
In a statement published on 10 January, SAMIM said that its Force Commander could not confirm that the incident took place within his area of responsibility, but promised that a board of inquiry would undertake an investigation and inform the public of its conclusion “as soon as it is finalised”.
The statement published by the South African National Defence Force condemned the “despicable act” and promised to bring anyone found guilty to justice.