Report to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights 51st Odinary Session under item 7b (vi)
Statement on torture
Madame Chairperson, Commissioners, the Secretary of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights; heads of Government delegations the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum (the Forum) welcomes the decision by the Government of Zimbabwe (GoZ) to ratify the UN Convention Against Torture (CAT), and to criminalise torture. The decision was announced by the Minister of justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs at the 19th Session of the UN Human Rights Council, in Geneva, when he presented the progress report by the government on recommendations made to Zimbabwe during the interactive dialogue at the 12th Session of the Universal Periodic Review in October 2011.
Torture is an endemic problem in Zimbabwe and at the centre of this problem is impunity. State agencies continue to use torture as a means of intimidating, investigating and obtaining information or confessions from real or perceived offenders with impunity. During the intersession alone, the Forum recorded a total of 9 incidences of torture involving about 61 victims.
Of major concern to the Forum is the increase in incidences of clear abuse of power by government agents particularly the police, which exposes communities to greater risk of torture. Notable cases include the case of Shamva residence who were indiscriminately assaulted and severely tortured by the police on 19 March 2012, resulting in the death of one man. The deceased, Luxmore Chikwambo succumbed to the injuries sustained from the torture which also left 10 others severely injured. The police officers were allegedly working under instruction from their superior whose wife had allegedly been robbed of a dollar, a cell phone and a wallet. Again on 4 January at Nkayi Growth Point armed police also went on a rampage beating up residents in retaliating over the assault of a colleague by unknown civilian assailants. About 30 people were affected. Recently on 31 March 2012, a gun-trotting policeman fired and injured two people at a shebeen in Glenview, Harare after he was insulted by the owner.
Furthermore the police continue to use torture as a method of harassment and intimidation of Human Rights Defenders and prodemocracy activists.
The resolution by the GoZ to ratify CAT and criminalise torture is an act of goodwill and responses to the calls by advocates and victims of torture for an end to such an inhuman act. It is also an acknowledgment of the reality that torture exists in Zimbabwe and that there is an urgent need for it to be addressed. The Forum commends the GoZ in its resolution to ratify CAT and domesticate the Convention in order to criminalise the heinous act of torture. The commendable decision by the GoZ will have wide-ranging and positive implications for the victims of torture, and gives final effect to the decision by Parliament on 23 May 2001 to ratify the Convention.
The Forum therefore call upon the Commission to urge the GoZ to:
1. Expedite the ratification process of CAT and criminalise torture in Zimbabwe;
2. Table a torture bill in parliament as soon as possible;
3. Ratify the Optional Protocol to the CAT;
4. Adhere to the principles and mandate of the United Nations Committee against torture; and
5. Adopt an inclusive approach and involve NGOs so as to have in-depth knowledge of the mechanisms relating to issues surrounding torture.