In this Human Rights Monthly we assess, against the background of its international duties, what the Government of Zimbabwe has done to prevent acts of torture within its borders, assist its victims, punish the perpetrators and ensure these acts are not repeated. Zimbabwe has ratified the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which prohibit torture in Articles 5 and 7 respectively. In addition torture is considered to be a peremptory norm in international law. This means that it is illegal for any state to violate the prohibition against torture. This prohibition of torture is set out more fully in CAT. The proscription for torture obliges Zimbabwe to actively prevent torture within its borders even though it has not yet raftied the CAT.
The CAT obligates State Parties to ensure that “torture, attempts to commit torture or complicity in torture” are treated as criminal offences. It also requires that all Member States take effective measures, including legislative, administrative and judicial, to prevent acts of torture. Zimbabwe is still to ratify the CAT. Parliament passed a motion to ratify it on 23 May 2001, however, no action has been taken since then. Zimbabwe’s ratification and subsequent local implementation of the CAT would be a significant move towards elimination of torture in the country. The Human Rights Forum has in the past called upon and continues to call upon the Government of Zimbabwe to ratify the Convention Against Torture without further delay.
The Forum notes that torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment appear to have become a central element of state agents’ treatment of citizens perceived as being in opposition to the State and those attempting to exercise their rights to freedom of association, assembly and expression. Citizens who support opposition political parties or have divergent views to those of the State have been the primary targets of torture. State agencies such as the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP), the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) and the Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) are repeatedly alleged to be using torture as a means of investigating and obtaining information or confessions from the real or perceived perpetrators of a crime in cases recorded by the Human Rights Forum.