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This article participates on the following special index pages:

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  • Peace Watch: Question on torture raised in Parliament
    March 31, 2009

    Update on Peace Workers

    The State is persisting with criminal charges against Jestina Mukoko and Broderick Takawira of the Zimbabwe Peace Project. The third abducted peace worker, Pascal Gonzo, was released without charge in January.

    Update on Prosecution of Political Abductees

    The “recruiter group”

    Jestina Mukoko and Broderick Takawira together with seven others, Fidelis Chiramba, Concillia Chinanzvavana, Emmanuel Chinanzvavana, Pieta Kaseke, Violet Mupfuranhehwe, Collen Mutemagau and Audrey Zimbudzana], are being charged with recruiting people for training in banditry, insurgency, sabotage or terrorism [Criminal Law Code, section 24]. The penalty if convicted is imprisonment, possibly for life. They last appeared in court on 20th March and were remanded until 9th April. On that date the State is expected to have fixed a definite date for their trial before the High Court in the session commencing in May – and to be ready to serve the documents indicting them for trial. The defence lawyers have warned that if no trial date is given on the 9th April they will apply for the charges to be dismissed.

    The “bomber group”

    Gandhi Mudzingwa, Chris Dhlamini and Andrisson Manyere, Chinoto Zulu, Zachariah Nkomo, Mapfumo Garutsa and Regis Mujeyi are facing charges of sabotage based on the bombing of police stations and railway lines in 2008 [Criminal Law Code, section 23]. The penalty is imprisonment, possibly for life. Their lawyer represented them at a magistrates court hearing on 24th March when they were further remanded until 30th April. On that date the State has said it will serve them with papers indicting them for trial before the High Court on 29th June. Of this group Andrisson Manyere, the photo journalist, is still being held in appalling conditions at Chikurubi maximum security prison, and Gandhi Mudzingwa and Chris Dhlamini are under guard in the Avenues Clinic, having been refused bail by the High Court. They have been granted leave to appeal to the Supreme Court against the refusal of bail, but their lawyer has been unable to get a date for the hearing. Under Zimbabwe law, in principle, all appeals for bail applications are deemed urgent. These three have been detained by the State since December and been trying to get bail since the middle of February. The other four in this group are on bail.

    No Trace of the Other “Disappeared”

    This week the MDC-T issued a statement expressing its continuing concern over the fate of the seven other abductees who disappeared on various dates in October and December 2008 and have still not been accounted for by the police or State security. The persons named are Gwenzi Kahiya – abducted 29 October 2008 in Zvimba, Ephraim Mabeka – abducted 10 December 2008 in Gokwe, Lovemore Machokoto – abducted 10 December 2008 in Gokwe, Charles Muza – abducted 10 December 2008 in Gokwe, Edmore Vangirayi – abducted 10 December 2008 in Gokwe, Graham Matehwa – abducted 17 December in Makoni South, Peter Munyanyi – abducted 13 December 2008 in Gutu South.

    Torture of “State Witnesses”

    It has now emerged that the three abductees who were held by in “protective custody” as State witnesses are alleging that they were tortured while held. Lloyd Tarumbwa, Fani Tembo and Terry Musona were part of the group kidnapped from their homes in Banket, Mashonaland West province at the end of October. They say they were severely tortured and subjected to inhumane treatment by State security agents. They were also denied food and medical treatment and their right to access to lawyers, and they were not taken to court in the four months they were incarcerated. Tarumbwa said: "In fact when we told the persecutors that we wanted access to a lawyer or to be brought before the courts, we were severely beaten, threatened with death and denied food for up to two days." They were eventually released following a High Court order in early March.

    Roy Bennett

    On 18th March Roy Bennett appeared at Mutare Magistrates Court for routine remand and was remanded out of custody [he is on bail] until 21st April. As soon as the court hearing was over, he rushed to Harare to be sworn in as a Senator that afternoon. He has not yet been sworn in as Deputy Minister of Agriculture – reportedly because President Mugabe has refused to complete the appointment of a Deputy Minister who is facing serious criminal charges.

    Use of Torture Raised in Parliament

    Nearly all of those abducted allege they were tortured while unlawfully held by State security personnel before they were handed over to the police in late December. In Peace Watch of 4th February it was pointed out that Zimbabwe has not signed the UN Convention against Torture. Now the matter has been taken up in Parliament – last week’s Wednesday Question Time included the following questions on the Convention and the use of torture:

    • “To ask the Co-Ministers of Home Affairs to explain why Zimbabwe has not ratified the UN Convention against Torture, and
    • To ask the Co-Ministers of Home Affairs whether the Ministry approves the alleged torture of suspects as a means of getting confessions; if not, why suspects are still being tortured and evidence obtained through such means used in court.”

    The questions were not answered last week – they were well down the list of questions and the allotted time ran out – but they will come up again this Wednesday. [Note: Several years ago Parliament passed a motion recommending that the Government should sign the Convention against Torture. The Government needs to give an explanation why this was never put into effect.

    The new inclusive Government should act on the intention of this motion immediately and ask Parliament to pass a new motion that the necessary steps be immediately taken for Zimbabwe to sign the UN Convention against Torture.

    The Optional Protocol to this Convention needs to be signed at the same time, to signal the Government’s determination to eliminate the practice of torture, with or without the State’s condoning it. The Optional Protocol provides for practical measures for the prevention of torture; it requires member States to permit regular inspections of places of detention [police stations, prisons] by the UN Sub-Committee on the Prevention of Torture, and to set up their own independent and impartial national bodies to inspect such places.

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