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Statement on the removal of billboards on torture
Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum
November 14, 2010

Officers from 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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