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Legal Monitor Issue 51
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR)

June 28, 2010

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Act now to reform torture laws

On the occasion of the United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture on 26 June 2010, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) stands by the numerous survivors of torture and remains completely opposed to the continued use of torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and punishment against human rights defenders and ordinary citizens in Zimbabwe.

That this international crime continues to be perpetrated by state actors and non-state actors acting with the acquiescence, knowledge and consent of the state must be condemned in the strongest possible terms. Perpetrators - even those who are well-known, have been identified, and evidence of their crimes provided to the Attorney General's Office - continue to be shielded from prosecution by state institutions, thus reinforcing the culture with impunity in society and denying victims and survivors redress.

Torture is a heinous act. It is internationally proscribed and constitutes a crime against humanity. The ban on torture has achieved the status of customary international law and states have a duty to ensure that they respect, protect, promote and fulfil their domestic and international obligations to protect all citizens, without fear or favour, against such conduct.

ZLHR calls on the Inclusive Government of Zimbabwe - through the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Human Rights - to immediately ratify and domesticate the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and to ensure that the state and its agents adhere to their responsibilities under the African Union's Robben Island Guidelines. Further, the government must expeditiously take legislative measures to:

  • Adopt the definition of torture as enunciated in the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment;
  • Ensure the unqualified entrenchment of the protection against torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment in the Bill of Rights of any constitution for Zimbabwe, and ensure proper redress for survivors of such crimes and their dependents; o Remove penal action that is tantamount to torture;
  • Criminalise and penalise the occurrence of torture in the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act;
  • Repeal provisions in the Prisons Act that facilitate acts tantamount to torture of prisoners by officials under the orders of the 'Commissioner' or 'Officers in Charge';
  • Incorporate torture as one of the offences prohibited in the Police Act, which regulates the conduct of law enforcement agents in Zimbabwe.

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