Commemorating International Day in Support of Victims of Torture

The International Day in Support of Victims of Torture was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly on 12 December 1997 towards eradicating torture and calling for the full operationalisation of the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT). The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum (the Forum), stands with victims of torture in calling for an end to the brutal attacks on life, human dignity and security of the person, both at the hands of State and non-State actors.

Torture and assault as instruments of inflicting harm, domination, control and unlawful investigation have been used historically in Zimbabwe, including during Gukurahundi, but continue to be used to this day. Recent prominent cases include the 1 August 2018 disturbances, the January 2019 ZimShutDown crackdown, and the May 2020 the abduction and torture of the three MDC Alliance youth leaders Joana Mamombe, Cecilia Chimbiri and Netsai Marova, the assault of Ntombizodwa and Nokuthula Mpofu from Cowdray Park, Bulawayo and the fatal shooting of Paul Munakopa from Bulawayo by the Zimbabwe Republic Police on 23 May 2020.

Since formation in 1998, the Forum has documented cases of horrific human rights violations perpetrated by State security agents in the course of law enforcement and for political ends, and by non-State actors with State complicity. Violations have ranged from extra-judicial killings, rape, sexual assault, arbitrary arrests and detentions, grievous bodily harm, disappearances, arson and destruction of property. These have often been accompanied with impunity. Survivors have been left with permanent physical and psychological injuries.

The abductions, torture and assault often form part of an apparent pattern. We have seen individuals exercising their constitutional rights to free speech and movement and freedoms of assembly and association, being targets for such crimes. Oftentimes, there is then limited attempts to investigate, identify perpetrators and prosecute.

In spite of Zimbabwe’s dark history with torture, Zimbabwe has not ratified the UNCAT. Domestically, the criminal law statute books do not have torture as a standalone offence to reflect its pervasiveness and seriousness. The Constitution of Zimbabwe, 2013 provides in section 53 that no person may be subjected to physical or psychological torture or to cruel inhuman or degrading treatment. Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) provides for freedom from torture and inhuman and degrading treatment.

Since 1998, the Forum has stood side by side with over 20 000 victims of organized violence and torture and processed over 7 000 civil cases in local and international courts. The Forum continues to call for an end to human rights violations and impunity, and for the Government of Zimbabwe to ratify the UNCAT. The Forum echoes the words of the United Nations human rights experts who in a joint statement on 10 June 2020 stated that the Government of Zimbabwe must take all measures in its power to prevent abuse, to investigate suspected violations, and to bring any perpetrators to justice, under the absolute and non-derogable prohibition of torture and ill-treatment.

Source: Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum (HRForum)