Heal Zimbabwe statement on the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture

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Heal Zimbabwe joins the rest of the world in commemorating the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. The day was set aside by the United Nations General Assembly resolution 52/149 with a view to eradicate all forms of torture. The day also presents an opportunity to push for the effective functioning of the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.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.

In his message on this important day, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres urged states to put to an end to torture and end impunity for perpetrators.” Torture is a vicious attempt at breaking a person’s will. On this International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, I urge all States to end impunity for perpetrators and eradicate these reprehensible acts that defy our common humanity”. Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights highlights that no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. This important instrument underscores the need for states to uphold human rights by legislating policies and practices that ensure that fundamental human rights and freedoms are enjoyed by everyone. Article 2 of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment compels member states to take effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent acts of torture in any territory under its jurisdiction. The African Charter on Human and People’s Rights also prohibit torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.

For Zimbabwe, the commemorations of this important day come at a time when the state in January 2019 during protests subjected several citizens including political activists to all forms of targeted torture and other forms of degrading treatment. This is besides the fact that Section 53 of the constitution dictates that “no person may be subjected to physical or psychological torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”. Added to this, Zimbabwe has an ugly history in which torture has been used to inflict pain or coerce political opponents. 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 light of the above, Heal Zimbabwe implores government to take all the necessary measures to ensure that Independent Commissions such as NPRC and Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) are well resourced and empowered enough  to conduct their constitutional duties without interference. 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. This mechanism will be responsible for receiving and investigating complaints from members of the public about misconduct on the part of members of the security services and for remedying any harm caused by such misconduct.
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