The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum (the Forum) and ZimRights join the rest of the world in commemorating International Day in Solidarity with Victims of Torture. On this day, the Forum and ZimRights lament the numerous cases of torture that continue to be reported and draw the attention of the Government to the plight of many who continue to suffer this terrible scourge and affront to human rights.
On 12 December 1997 the United Nations General Assembly, by resolution 52/149 proclaimed 26 June as International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. The purpose of the day is to keep in perspective the need for total eradication of torture and to bring the Convention against Torture (CAT) and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment to a full function.
The call to commemorate the day is a call to stand in solidarity with victims of torture. The Forum and ZimRights state that torture in Zimbabwe continues to be a feature that is used by the Zimbabwe Republic Police and the Zimbabwe National Army in clear cases witnessed most recently in the August 1 Shootings and the ZimShutDown Protests. The Forum and ZimRights take a moment to affirm their commitment in seeking recourse for the many victims of torture.
The Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No.20) (the Constitution) provides in section 53 that no person may be subjected to physical or psychological torture or to cruel inhuman or degrading treatment. In section 44 of the same, the Constitution states in clear terms that the duty to respect, protect, promote and defend human rights is the duty of the Government. However, the Constitution does not define torture. The implication of this is that government can deny accountability through a constitutional provision which is left to vague interpretation. There is need for specific legislation that embraces holistically the international standard on eradication of torture.
Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) recognizes the right to be free from torture and degrading treatment. The Convention against Torture and other forms of Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) defines torture in article 1 as any act which brings severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental and intentionally caused with the sole purpose of getting that person to confess or to punish the person for something he or she did or someone else did or is suspected to have done. CAT also provides in article 1 that every country or nation that is a party to the treaty shall ensure that any complaints of torture are investigated. The treaty states that a country which signs CAT must specifically come up with laws that punish torture or any forms of inhuman and cruel treatment. This provision means that when there is an investigation, those who are responsible for torture must be arrested and punished appropriately with effective sentences that deter public officials from making use of torture.
The Forum and ZimRights note with concern the neglect by the Government to ratify this treaty in a step that will positively assert Governments commitment to ending torture or any forms of inhuman or degrading treatment.
The Forum and ZimRights therefore call on Government to do the following;
• To ratify CAT as a firm assertion and commitment to ending all forms of violence and torture in Zimbabwe.
• To take positive steps to stop all forms of torture and investigate all allegations of torture that are brought to its attention and ensure adequate redress, remedy and accountability for the victims and perpetrators.
• To implement the recommendations of the Montlanthe Commission especially in cases serious violations of human rights.