Heal Zimbabwe joins the rest of the world in commemorating International Day in support of Victims of Torture. The United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture on 26 June marks the moment in 1987 when the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment came into effect. This year’s theme, “From horror to healing” compel governments to eliminate all political, social and economic factors that promote torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. This is a positive step towards wholesome healing and reconciliation for all survivors of torture.
For Zimbabwe, the occasion for this year’s commemoration offers an opportunity for the government to ratify the United Nations Convention on Against Torture and other Cruel, inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment with a view to the total eradication of torture. Further to this, Section 53 of the constitution highlights that no citizen may be subjected to physical or psychological torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Past episodes of violence such as Gukurahundi, the 2002,2005 and 2008 elections have seen torture, inhuman and degrading treatment being used as tools to inflict pain and crush dissent on political opponents.
In the past, Heal Zimbabwe has facilitated for survivors of torture to participate in healing and reconciliation processes such as public hearings on the NPRC bill. During these hearings, victims of torture have advocated for legislation that delivers justice and safeguards them against revictimisation. The lack of a decentralized NPRC especially at the ward and village level for easy access by survivors continues to act as a hurdle in the attainment of a wholesome healing and reconciliation process.
In light of the above, Heal Zimbabwe implores government to take all the necessary to ensure;
- That Independent Commissions such as NPRC and Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) are well resourced and empowered enough to offer early warning and early response services ahead of the 2018 elections. This is justified that electoral processes have been marred by acts of torture and degrading treatment targeted at women and political activists
- All other stakeholders such as the police, army, and other agencies of government must not act in a partisan manner, further interests of any political party or violate the fundamental rights or freedom of any person as provided for in Section 208 of the constitution. This must be complemented by the setting of an Independent Complaints Mechanism as stipulated in Section 210 of the constitution
- As a UN member state, the Zimbabwean government must also commit to the upholding of human rights and create a conducive environment for the holding of violent free elections.
The International Day in Support of Victims of Torture came into force on 12 December 1997, by resolution 52/149, when the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed that 26 June be the United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, with a view to the total eradication of torture and the effective functioning of the convention against Torture and Other cruel, inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.