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.
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 there is an increase in cases of torture against citizens. Several Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) including more recently Legwani Mavhunga and Munyaradzi Mafararikwa were tortured while in police custody in April 2021.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 a 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. 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 swift setting up of an Independent Complaints Mechanism Commission 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.