Heal Zimbabwe joins the rest of the world in commemorating International Day in support ofVictims of Torture. The day came into force on 12 December 1997, by resolution 52/149, when the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed that 26 June to be the United NationsInternational 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.
For Zimbabwe, the occasion for this year commemoration comes at a time when there has been slow pace in the implementation of a legislative framework that seeks to ensure that victims of torture get justice. Zimbabwe’s history is littered with episodes where torture has been used as a weapon to coerce and inflict pain on political opponents. Some of these episodes include Gukurahundi and past elections particularly the 2002, 2005 and 2008.For Zimbabwe, the commemorations for this year come at a time when the country’s human rights record has come under intense scrutiny.MDC Alliance activists, Harare West Legislator,Honourable Joana Mamombe,MDC Vice Chairperson, Cecelia Chimbiri and Deputy Organizing Secretary Netsai Marova were abducted on 13 May 2020.According from testimonies produced in court, the three activists were tortured by alleged state agents. The torture of these activists is not the only isolated case where torture was used on victims. In recent months, several activists including Citizens Manifesto coordinator, Tatenda Mombeyarara and the MDC Alliance Youth Chairperson Blessed Kanotunga are some of the people who were abducted and tortured.
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. 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”
In light of the above, Heal Zimbabwe implores the government to ratify the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT).Added to this, government must also implement previous undertakings and assurances given to the UN Human Rights Committee and to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights which have still not been fulfilled. Adopting CAT and implementing its key provisions will go a long way in esnruing that the state complies with Section 53 of the constitution of Zimbabwe that prohibits torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of punishment.CAT obliges states that are parties to the convention to do far more than merely having a brief general prohibition of torture in their constitution but to take all legislative,administrative,judicial and other measures to prevent acts of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment within their territories.