Magistrate orders probe into activists' torture claims

HARARE - A Zimbabwe magistrate on Thursday ordered an investigation into claims by a freelance journalist and six opposition activists that they were tortured by police and other state security agents.

The court orders the Attorney General's office to order the police to
investigate the allegations of torture and report by 23 January 2008,
magistrate Olivia Mariga ruled after a lawyer for the journalist and
activists told the court they were subjected to severe torture while in
custody.

The journalist, Anderson Shadreck Manyere, and the MDC party activists
are charged with attempting to recruit people for military training in
neighbouring Botswana to overthrow President Robert Mugabe and his
ruling ZANU PF party.

All in all more than 30 civic and opposition activists including
leading human rights defender Jestina Mukoko have been accused of
plotting to overthrow the government.

The accused were all kidnapped from their homes, work or other places
and allege they were severely tortured by state agents in a bid to
force them to admit to the charges of banditry.

Alec Muchadehama, who is representing Manyere and the MDC activists,
yesterday told the court they were kidnapped and taken to secret
torture camps where they were subjected to degrading and inhuman
treatment.

They were kidnapped between November and December and were hidden
around Harare were they were tortured and suffered inhuman and
degrading treatment at the hands of their captors, said Muchadehama.

Torture and other forms of inhuman punishment are illegal in Zimbabwe.

However human rights groups say illegal use of torture by state
security forces is on the rise as the government battles to keep public
discontent in check amid a deteriorating economic meltdown, hunger and
poverty. 

In an affidavit submitted to court, Chris Dhlamini, the MDC director of
security and one of the activists accused of banditry details severe
torture he says he was subjected to in a bid to force him to admit to
plotting to overthrow Mugabe.

Dhlamini said in the affidavit that at one point he was taken to
Goromonzi prison complex, about 30 km east of Harare, where he was
subjected to brutal beatings and mock drowning as his captors demanded
information from him about training of bandits in Botswana by the MDC.

He said he was taken to various and undisclosed locations in a bid to
disorient and break him down and force him to confess to bombing police
stations and railway lines.


Dhlamini – who was all the time handcuffed and blindfolded while being
threatened he would be fed to crocodiles if he did not cooperate – said
his captors also demanded to know who in the army, police, Central
Intelligence Organisation and ZANU PF were colluding with the MDC and
supplying the opposition party with information.

The opposition security chief said: Before I had a chance to say
anything, the torture commenced. I was told to lie on my stomach, with
my hands now cuffed at my front, and I was severely assaulted by many
individuals who took turns to beat me on my back and all over my body
non-stop.

The soles of my feet were also beaten with hard objects, falanga
style. Each time I did not provide a satisfactory answer (as I had no
knowledge of what they were talking about), I was brutally assaulted.

I then, still blindfolded, had my legs tied together, my hands were
cuffed behind my back, and I was suspended from a considerable height.
The first time I was hung upright and subjected to further assaults,
including further beatings on the soles of my feet.


The second time I was hung upside down, and fell or was dropped from
this height to the ground, sustaining injuries on my upper forehead and
below my nose. I was bleeding profusely over my face and shirt.

Dhalmini said his captors would give him a two litres of water everyday which they told him was his breakfast and lunch. 


This together with the severity of the assaults led me to lose
consciousness at least twice. Each time, I was revived by a woman (I
could see a little underneath my blindfold, which had been loosened
when I fell to the ground) who would spray water on my face, said
Dhlamini.

At one stage, Dhlamini was taken to an outdoor cement sink at a prison
complex. 
My blindfold was removed and a sack was placed over my head
and neck, said Dhlamini.

I was lifted up and my head was submerged in the sink and held there
for long periods by someone, in a mock drowning, which is another
severe form of torture (water boarding) to which I was subjected during
my unlawful abduction and detention.

The mock drowning went on and on, until I felt that I was on the verge
of dying, said Dhlamini, adding that a woman who was being referred to
be her colleagues as Aunty Daisy administered the mock drowning to
him.

Dhlamini was kept in solitary confinement from 25 November when he was
unlawfully abducted until 22 December 2008 when he was transferred to
an overcrowded cell.  


I was placed in an overcrowded cell in inhuman and degrading
conditions, with no access to water. I was not even allowed to bath,
he said.


Another MDC activist Chinoto Zulu said that he was tortured so severely
that his condition deteriorated so much that his torturers had to call
a doctor to examine him.

After another two days a doctor had to assess my condition while at
Braeside police station, I had a huge tumour on my back as I had been
drowned, water boarded.

Manyere, the journalist who is also being charged with sabotage, told
the court during cross-examination that his captors assaulted him to
force him to admit to bombing police stations.

Meanwhile Muchadehama applied for refusal of remand for the seven on
the grounds that they were supposed to be treated as complainants and
victims of torture.

Muchadehama told the court: To place them on remand will be grave
violation of the accused's rights as prescribed in the constitution.
The court cannot be abused to perpetuate illegalities.

If you remand them then you will be urging the perpetrators to
continue such abductions. In fact you will be saying well done, do it
again and I will remand them.

The matter continues today when the state is expected to respond to submissions by the defence. – ZimOnline

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