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Watch: Question on torture raised in Parliament
March 31, 2009
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.
on Prosecution of Political Abductees
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.”
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
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
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