The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum (the Forum) joins the rest of the world in commemorating the United Nations (UN) International Day in Support of Victims of Torture marked on 26 June annually. The United Nations General Assembly selected June 26, to honour June 26, 1987, the day the Convention Against Torture and other cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment came into force. The Convention was created to reaffirm that the equal and inalienable rights of the human family are the foundation of freedom, justice, and peace in the world.
26 June 2009 marks exactly a year after a “botched, bloody and violent 27 June Presidential Election”,1 a charade that saw many Zimbabweans endure the unimaginable, the unspeakable, – torture, inhuman and degrading treatment. The UN theme for 2009 – “together against torture” is most relevant to Zimbabwe, a nation that has seen a pervasive culture of torture and impunity entrenched over years. It reminds us that torture is a crime, and the day provides us with an opportunity to stand united and voice our position against a cruel violation of human rights. The Forum calls on all Zimbabweans to remember and support the many victims and survivors of this cruel violation of human rights.
Article 1 of the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) defines torture as follows:
“torture means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an
act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the
instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions”
As we remember the many victims of torture across the globe it is important to revisit some of the findings the Forum made in 2008 with regards to torture and its link with the outcome of last year’s two elections in Zimbabwe. There is no doubt that statesponsored politically motivated violence informed and influenced political thinking amongst citizens and helped to carry the day for ZANU PF. The Forum observed at the time that the country was involved in some kind of internecine war that was meant to determine the outcome of elections and how Zimbabweans were to choose
a government to lead them. The violence attributed to state security agents, ZANU PF and even non-state actors, showed evidence of systematic torture, abductions, disappearance, summary executions and extra-judicial killings.
On this day in 2008, the Forum was on record noting that the torture that had been recorded in Zimbabwe was systematic and showed a strong association with officials of the State. These included members of Parliament, the police, the Central Intelligence Organization, and other officials – as well as an association with groups closely affiliated to the ZANU PF political party (ruling party at that time) such as “war veterans”, youth militia, ZANU PF youth, ZANU PF supporters, and ZANU PF party officials. To make matters worse, there was no or very little evidence, of any
attempt by the executive or organs of the State to proactively deal with the violence. These negative characteristics of the violence, the involvement of state officials, support from state funds and the impunity for perpetrators associated with such violence in Zimbabwe match largely the descriptions and proscriptions provided for in the main documents on torture such as CAT, Robben Island Guidelines2 and even the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which all proscribe torture.
Last year the Forum reported on 723 cases of torture, 35 of these were recorded in June alone. In December 2008, 18 cases of torture were recorded. A spate of abductions took place between October and December 2008. Jestina Mukoko the Director of the Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP) (a member of the Forum) was abducted from her home in the early hours of the morning of 3 December. Mukoko and 15 others, mostly MDC activists, who had also been abducted from their homes between October and November, were only “found” on 23 December 2008, when
they were brought before the Harare Magistrate’s Court “facing charges of banditry”. Mukoko and the other abductees, who included a two-year old boy, were allegedly assaulted, tortured, denied access to food and medical treatment.
The Forum recommends and reiterates that:
· there must be a complete end to the violence and all torture bases reportedly being reactivated in some rural areas must be abolished.
· the Inclusive Government must enact laws that outlaw torture as a criminal and cruel offence that cannot be amnestied.
· sign, ratify and domesticate CAT and its Optional Protocol.
· scrupulously investigate all reported cases of torture and bring the perpetrators to account.
· guarantee non-repetition through the systematic enforcement of the prohibition against torture and elimination of impunity for all perpetrators.
· victims of torture should be rehabilitated, receive adequate, effective, prompt and proportional compensation to the gravity of the violation as recommended in the 2002 African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights (ACHPR) Fact-Finding Mission Report; determinations in the communications 245/02 of the ACHPR between the government of Zimbabwe and the Forum and various other domestic court orders which have been ignored by the Zimbabwean government.