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Commission finds Zimbabwe responsible for torture of a human rights
March 22, 2013
Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights has found the Zimbabwe
Government responsible for the torture
and ill-treatment of Gabriel Shumba, a well-known human rights advocate
and lawyer from Zimbabwe. This is the first time in its 26-year
history for the most important human rights body in Africa to hold
Zimbabwe responsible for torture.
Mr Shumba, who
was representing human rights activists and members of the opposition
party MDC before courts in Zimbabwe at the time of his arrest and
torture at the hands of the police and intelligence personnel, emphasised
that the ruling went beyond his case. “This important ruling
adds to Africa’s struggle against impunity, and the case is
representative of thousands who have suffered torture and various
indignities at the hands of a repressive regime in Zimbabwe,”
said Mr Shumba, who fled to South Africa for fear of his life in
2003, shortly after his torture. Mr Shumba brought a complaint before
the African Commission in 2004.
In its decision,
the African Commission considered that Mr Shumba had submitted “more
than adequate evidence” to support his allegation of torture
and ill-treatment, including being subjected to prolonged electric
shocks in the mouth, genitals, fingers, toes and other parts of
the body. It said Zimbabwe failed to open an official investigation
and that it should do so and bring those responsible to justice.
also alluded to the impunity with which torture is being committed
in Zimbabwe which made it impossible for Mr Shumba to seek justice
before Zimbabwean courts. In particular, it acknowledges that he
would have undergone great risks had he returned to Zimbabwe to
seek justice, stating that “there was no guarantee that he
would not have been arrested or subjected to the same treatment
he had been subjected to the previous time.” The Commission
also made it clear that remedies in Zimbabwe “are inadequate,
ineffective and unavailable” and ordered Zimbabwe to pay Mr
Shumba adequate compensation for the torture and trauma caused to
him. Zimbabwe has 90 days to implement the decision. “The
Government of Zimbabwe and the African Union's commitment to ending
impunity will be measured against a clear yardstick of implementation
of the decision of the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights,”
added Mr Shumba.
decision is emblematic of the widespread use of state terror to
coerce and cow a subject population. It is not merely a legal decision
in favour of a single victim but rather a recognition by Africa's
most important and prestigious institution that the practice of
disappearing people and beating them to within an inch of their
lives will no longer be ignored by Zimbabwe's neighbours,”
said David Padilla, Mr Shumba’s lawyer.
once more underlines the crucial role of the Commission in providing
justice to victims who have nowhere else to go”, said Mr Haile,
Interim-Director of REDRESS, who supported Mr Shumba’s claim.
“While we would have hoped that the Commission’s ruling
on reparation is more inclusive of other forms of reparation recognised
under international law, particularly access to medical and psychological
rehabilitation, this ruling is an important acknowledgment of the
torture committed against Mr Shumba and the obligation of the Government
of Zimbabwe to provide him with compensation”, added Mr Haile.
to the case
is a well-known human rights lawyer who has represented human rights
activists and members of the former opposition party MDC before
courts in Zimbabwe. Mr Shumba was arrested by the Zimbabwean riot
police and personnel from the Central Intelligence Organisation
on 14 January 2003, while taking instructions from a client. He
was kicked and beaten, detained without charge and severely tortured
and ill-treated for several hours. Interrogators threatened Mr Shumba
with death, electrocuted him and poured a chemical substance over
his body. He lost control of his bodily functions, vomited blood
and was forced to drink his vomit.
torture in 2003, he was forced to flee to South Africa, where is
currently living. Mr Shumba is the chairperson of the Zimbabwe
Exiles Forum and advocate of the High Court of South Africa
and a member of the Johannesburg Bar. He filed the complaint against
Zimbabwe with the African Commission on 24 May 2004.
further information, please contact:
Zimbabwe Exiles Forum, on +27846649798 or email@example.com
Eva Sanchis, Communications Officer at REDRESS on +44 (0) 20 7793
1777 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Exiles Forum is a Southern African non-political, non-profit and
non-partisan organisation with an eye on the future of Zimbabwe.
It was founded in 2003 in South Africa on the premise that political
change that will usher in a democratic dispensation where human
dignity and civil liberties are sacrosanct in Zimbabwe is inevitable.
More information on our work is available on our website: http://www.zimexilesforum.org.
founded by a British torture survivor in 1992. Since then, it has
consistently fought for the rights of torture survivors and their
families in the UK and abroad. It takes legal challenges on behalf
of survivors, works to ensure that torturers are punished and that
survivors and their families obtain remedies for their suffering.
REDRESS cooperates with civil society groups around the world to
eradicate the practice of torture once and for all and to ensure
that survivors can move forward with their lives in dignity. It
has intervened in a range of leading torture cases. More information
on our work is available on our website: www.redress.org.
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