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  • Index of articles on enforced disappearances in Zimbabwe

  • Torture is totally unacceptable - Peace Watch
    July 11, 2009

    Jestina Mukoko has been awarded the 2009 Human Rights Award by the city of Weimar in Germany. [It was in Weimar that the Constitution of the German Republic was drafted.] The award is in acknowledgement of her steadfast work as a human rights activist and Director of the Zimbabwe Peace Project, an organisation which works to promote peace and documents human rights violations. Towards the end of last year she was abducted, “disappeared”, and tortured by State agents and accused of “terrorism”. She was only moved from prison to hospital in mid-February and is now still on bail awaiting the outcome of her court case. Her unlawful abduction and subsequent detention has been widely noted in Germany and strongly condemned by the German government.

    It is Time Zimbabwe Signed the Convention against Torture

    Parliament resolved, some years ago, that Zimbabwe should become a party to, the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment [CAT]. But that resolution has not been followed up by the Government. When on 1st April co-Minister of Home Affairs Giles Mutsekwa was asked why Zimbabwe had not ratified the Convention, he replied that he was looking into why the papers prepared in 1995 had not been processed. He has not reported back to Parliament. The question cries out for a more satisfactory answer and for action to be taken. As we pointed out in Peace Watch of 5th February: “It is high time that Zimbabwe signed the Convention. At present Zimbabwe sticks out like a sore thumb in the region – all the countries round us have signed and ratified or acceded to [i.e. joined] the Convention. 12 out of 15 SADC States, and 47 out of 53 African States, have joined. Zimbabwe, which used to be a progressive leader in Africa, is now a country shamefully out of step with the rest of the continent.”

    Assist in the campaign to get Zimbabwe sign the Convention by lobbying your MPs to take action. Letters may be delivered to MPs c/o Parliament, Kwame Nkrumah Avenue between 2nd and 3rd Streets, or posted to P.O. Box CY298, Causeway. Alternatively phone the Ministers of Home Affairs – Giles Mutsekwa and Kempton Mohadi on Harare +263-4-730642.

    State Concedes that Jestina Mukoko was Tortured

    The Supreme Court sitting as a Constitutional Court on 25th June heard Jestina’s application for the criminal proceedings against her to be permanently stopped, on the grounds that her constitutional rights had been violated by her abduction last December and the unlawful detention and torture, inhuman and degrading treatment to which she was subjected by State security agents. The State conceded that the evidence produced by Ms Mukoko, which was undisputed by the State’s witnesses, established that her constitutional rights to liberty, to protection from torture and to protection of the law had all been infringed.

    Ms Mukoko was represented by distinguished advocates Jeremy Gauntlett and Beatrice Mtetwa. In an emotionally charged courtroom Mr Gauntlett took the court through Ms Mukoko’s account of her ordeal: how she was unlawfully abducted from her home on 3rd December, subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment in the course of removal from her home to the place of detention, unlawfully detained until the 22nd December, including long periods in solitary confinement, tortured, threatened with death, deprived of medical care and access to lawyers. Mr Gauntlett’s referred to the court record in detail, showing that the State had produced no evidence to dispute Ms Mukoko’s affidavit and oral evidence detailing her abduction and subsequent treatment.

    Mr Gauntlett argued that a permanent end to the prosecution was the only appropriate remedy. He contended that the evidence of police complicity in the illegality that had preceded Ms Mukoko’s handing over for formal police arrest on 22nd December could not be ignored [see below] and that a trial should not be allowed to proceed in a case in which the State has such “dirty hands”. The State argued that the criminal trial should proceed, maintaining that a separate inquiry into Ms Mukoko’s complaints would be a sufficient remedy for the wrongs she had suffered.

    After hearing legal argument from both sides the court reserved judgment. This means that the court’s decision on whether or not to stop the prosecution for good will be handed down at a future date to be advised. This could take months. If the decision is not known by 20th July, when Ms Mukoko’s trial is due to start in the High Court, the trial is likely to be postponed until the Supreme Court’s decision has been announced.

    State Complicity in the Torture

    What made the case doubly horrific was that the evidence indicated that Ms Mukoko’s treatment had not been at the hands of rogue elements among State security agents, but showed State/police complicity. On 22nd December, while blindfolded, she had been handed over to the police in circumstances demonstrating police complicity with the actions of those who had abducted, detained and tortured her. The Minister of State Security in his affidavit, far from denying the allegations levelled against State security agents by Ms Mukoko, had acknowledged that the agents were carrying out their mandate and refused to reveal their identities.

    There had also been no denial of the evidence that Ms Mukoko had been denied the protection of the law – her abduction, although reported to policed and recorded as a case of “kidnapping”, had not been investigated by police and the perpetrators had not been brought to book. The Attorney-General had questionaby invoked his wide powers as chief prosecutor as justification for his refusal to order police investigations into Ms Mukoko’s abduction.

    Potential Impact on Other Cases Alleging Torture

    A few days after the Supreme Court hearing in the Mukoko matter the second abductees trial [the “bombers” case] came up for hearing in the High Court before Justice Hungwe. Defence lawyer Alec Muchadehama applied for the case to be referred to the Supreme Court for the determination of constitutional questions – the same questions as had already been referred by Justice Uchena in the case of Concillia et al on 22nd June. In spite of opposition from the prosecutor – and the production of a statement from current State Security Minister Sidney Sekeramayi denying abduction and torture by State security agents – Justice Hungwe granted the application for referral to the Supreme Court and postponed the trial. As the same questions arise in the third abductees trial, which is due to start on the 20th July, a similar application is likely to be made – and granted – in that case also. Whether or not these three trials proceed later will depend largely on the Supreme Court’s decision in the Mukoko case. [Note: Justice Uchena’s written reasons for referring the case of Concillia et al to the Supreme Court became available this week. Rejecting the Attorney-General’s attempt to distance the police and prosecution from the actions of State security agents before the 22nd December, he points to the uncontested evidence alleging police involvement from the time the applicants were originally abducted, and concludes that it would be undesirable for the serious allegations levelled against the State security agents and the police to be swept under the carpet.]

    UN International Day in Support of Victims of Torture

    26th June was the United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture – 26th June having been chosen by the United Nations [UN] because it was on that date in 1987 that the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment came into force. To mark the occasion the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum issued a statement drawing attention to numerous cases of torture in Zimbabwe since June 2008, noting the impunity enjoyed by most perpetrators, and calling for Zimbabwe to become party to the Convention and its Optional Protocol.

    Extra-Judicial Killings Alleged in Chiadzwa Diamond Fields

    Human Rights Watch [HRW] released its report Diamonds in the Rough: Human Rights Abuses in the Marange Diamond Field of Zimbabwe on the 26th June. The 62-page report documented how “Zimbabwe’s armed forces, under the control of President Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe African National Union–Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), are engaging in forced labour of children and adults and are torturing and beating local villagers on the diamond fields of Marange district. The military seized control of these diamond fields in eastern Zimbabwe after killing more than 200 people in Chiadzwa, a previously peaceful but impoverished part of Marange, in late October 2008. With the complicity of ZANU-PF, Marange has become a zone of lawlessness and impunity, a microcosm of the chaos and desperation that currently pervade Zimbabwe.” The report recommended investigation of the human rights abuses by the Kimberley Process, the organization that controls international diamond marketing and of which Zimbabwe is a member. The Ministry of Mines denied the allegations of killings, forced labour and human rights abuses.

    A Kimberley Process team visited Zimbabwe’s last week in the wake of the recent Kimberly Process meeting in South Africa, where the HRW report was released. It went to the diamond fields [there were media reports of the Chiadzwa area having been cleaned up in advance] and met Ministers, government officials, lawyers, human rights activists, miners, residents in the vicinity of Chiadzwa, and victims of the alleged abuses. The team’s final report has not been completed, but in a confidential memorandum presented to the government it recommended the immediate withdrawal of the military [“There cannot be effective security where diamonds are concerned with the involvement of the military”] and stricter controls to curb illegal mining and processing and diamond smuggling. State media played down the adverse conclusions spelled out by the team in its memorandum, but independent media reports say the team concluded that the military had been directly involved in illegal mining and that the authorities had carried out “horrific violence against civilians”. Although the government stated last week that it would comply with the team’s recommendations, including a phased withdrawal of the military, the latest news is that the military will stay in place for “security reasons”.

    *Veritas makes every effort to ensure reliable information, but cannot take legal responsibility for information supplied.

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