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Crimen injuria

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Title: Crimen injuria  
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Subject: Defamation
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Crimen injuria

Crimen injuria is a crime under South African common law, defined to be the act of "unlawfully, intentionally and seriously impairing the dignity of another."[1] Although difficult to precisely define, the crime is used in the prosecution of certain instances of road rage,[2] stalking,[1] racially offensive language,[3] emotional or psychological abuse[4] and sexual offences against children.[5] The Truth and Reconciliation Commission heard numerous cases of crimen injuria, usually coupled with assault, committed by intelligence services on both sides of the struggle against apartheid.


The phrase "crimen injuria" seems to be a misunderstanding of the Latin phrase crimen iniuriae, which should mean 'accusation of abusive behaviour'; the word crimen never means crime per se.

Furthermore, in Roman legal parlance, iniuria almost never refers to physical attack or abuse, although it is often associated with it: Rather, iniuria translates better as "[specific instance of or action constituting] injustice," i.e., "violation of rights" or "action to the prejudice of [another's] rights" (in, "not" or "against," + ius/iuris, "[legal or natural-legal] right"), such that many iniuriae involve physical harm and many actions inflicting physical harm constitute iniuria but neither set is a subset of the other. For example, physical harm inflicted upon an aggressor by an innocent party acting in self-defense does not constitute iniuria unless the legal system in question regards it as disproportionate (e.g., when a person uses lethal force in defense of property alone), and assertions deemed defamatory by that system may constitute iniuria actionable in civil or even criminal court even though they inflict no physical harm upon the person against whom they are directed.


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