If you thought the recent story of 34 miners shot dead by police in South Africa couldn't get any worse, it just did. Miners arrested during the ongoing strikes have now been charged with the murder of their 34 colleagues.
Astonishingly, the 270 workers would be tried under the "common purpose" doctrine, once used by the former white minority apartheid regime against black activists fighting for democracy. Former ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema has described it as "madness".
The government has already faced scathing criticism over the bloodshed, which has been dubbed the "Marikana massacre" by the South African media.
This latest decision – to charge the miners themselves – is not only a bad sign for justice and the rule of law in South Africa. For years, the country has acted as one of the strongest examples of African democracy. Now, the threat of it backsliding on many issues – from a draconian new censorship bill to removing constitutional protects for gay people – imperils progress on human rights throughout the region.
Learn more: The New York Times has the best analysis of the obscure – and absurd – legal doctrine being used against the miners.
Sources: BBC, Guardian, New York Times, Avaaz