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Statement on the removal of billboards on torture
Rights NGO Forum
November 14, 2010
Bulawayo police's Law and Order Section say calling for the
ratification of the Convention Against Torture and the abolition
of torture is offensive and causes disharmony. Chief Superintendent
Patrick Moyo summoned representatives of the Zimbabwe Human Rights
NGO Forum (the Forum) over billboards and street pole signs calling
for the abolition of torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.
Despite having agreed to a meeting for Friday 12th, November, the
Forum representatives found most of the billboards already destroyed.
The Forum representatives refused to meet the police because it
was apparent that the police were not acting in good faith.
From the beginning of 2010, the Zimbabwe Human Rights
NGO Forum (the Forum) has implemented a broad based campaign designed
to contribute towards the eradication of torture in Zimbabwe. This
campaign, which is an integral part of the Forum's concerted
efforts to reduce organized violence and torture, cruel, inhuman
and degrading treatment, has encompassed a wide range of strategies
which include litigation, documentation and a media campaign.
When the constitution-making process began to gain
momentum, the Forum opted to use billboards in all major cities
in Zimbabwe as an alternative medium of civic education to carry
out its message on torture. With the required licences, the Forum
erected billboards in Harare, Bulawayo, Gweru, Masvingo, Mutare
and Chitungwiza. On 5 November 2010 Chief Superintendent Patrick
Moyo and CID Officer Samakanda from Bulawayo contacted the Forum
demanding that the Forum remove all of its billboards in Bulawayo.
The Forum had mounted eight along Main Street, eight along Robert
Mugabe Road, and one along Harare Road next to Brady Barrack. The
basis given for the removal of these billboards was that they were
offensive. However, this claim was not substantiated. It appears
that futile attempts were allegedly made by the said officers to
apply pressure on the City of Bulawayo to revoke the billboard leases.
It is understood that the rationale cited to the City Council was
that the locations did not meet Council standards on environment
friendliness and that they obstructed some important tourism features.
While the police chose to attribute the illegal
action to "politics" and members of an unnamed political
party, the Forum believes that the police must be held accountable.
We believe that they were either unwilling to stop the illegal action
or they were directly responsible for this illegal action which
undermines efforts targeting the eradication of the use of torture
in Zimbabwe. The Forum is dismayed that the police, who have been
fingered in many cases of torture, seem to want to retain this abominable
practice in our country.
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