Torture victims speak out

giles_mutsekwa_1.jpgHome Affairs Minister, Giles Mutsekwa
HARARE - The inclusive government is still looking into why it has not ratified the UN Convention on Torture, Home Affairs Minister, Giles Mutsekwa, has said - infuriating legal experts.

The government’s resistance to ratify the UN treaty, which calls for
zero tolerance against torture, comes as three abductees who were held
by police in so-called "protective custody" , broke their silence and
alleged that they were viciously tortured while "detained."

Lloyd Tarumbwa, Fani Tembo and Terry Musona were part of the group kidnapped

from their homes in Banket, Mashonaland West province, at the end of October.

Denied a lawyer


The three all say they were severely tortured and subjected to inhumane
treatment by State security agents. They were also denied food and
medical treatment and their right to access to lawyers.

"When we told the persecutors that we wanted access to a lawyer or to
be brought before the courts, we were severely beaten, threatened with
death and denied food for up to two days, said Tarumbwa.

They were eventually released following a High Court order. The
Zimbabwean understands that Parliament passed a motion years ago,
recommending that the Government should sign the UN Convention against
Torture.

Legal experts say the government needs to give an explanation why this was

never put into effect.

Legal experts infuriated


"The new inclusive Government should act on the intention of this motion

immediately and ask Parliament to pass a new motion that the necessary
steps be immediately taken for Zimbabwe to sign the UN Convention
against Torture," said Val Ingham-Thorpe, a legal expert with legal
service Veritas.

Mutsekwa told Parliament that the Home Affairs ministry does not
approve the use of torture to extract confessions, and pointed out that
"such confessions are not admissible in court."

Despite the minister’s denial, the confessions have on several
occasions been successfully used in court, especially in political
cases.

Asked about the long-standing failure by the police to prosecute
persons accused of crimes, including murder, committed against MDC
members during the election campaign, he gave an assurance that
"everyone would be brought to book."

Whereabouts unknown

He spoke as his party issued a statement expressing its continuing
concern over the fate of seven missing MDC abductees who disappeared on
various dates in October and December 2008 and have still not been
accounted for by the police or State security.

The persons named are Gwenzi Kahiya – abducted October 29, 2008 in Zvimba,

Ephraim Mabeka, Lovemore Machokoto, Charles Muza, Edmore Vangirayi –
abducted December 10, 2008 in Gokwe, Graham Matehwa – abducted December
17 in Makoni South, Peter Munyanyi – abducted December 13, 2008 in Gutu
South.

It is feared these people have been killed, human rights groups in Zimbabwe say.

However, there was a silver lining as photojournalist, Andrisson
Manyere, was freed on bail from Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison last
Friday. His co-accused Gandhi Mudzingwa, a former aide of Prime
Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, and MDC security chief Chris Dhlamini, who
were under armed guard in the Avenues Clinic, were also freed on bail.

The three and their co-accused Chinoto Zulu, Zachariah Nkomo, Mapfumo
Garutsa and Regis Mujeyi are facing charges of sabotage based on the
bombing of police stations and railway lines in 2008. They are being
charged under Section 23 of the draconian Criminal Law Codification and
Reform Act.

If convicted, the penalty is imprisonment, possibly for life.

Trial date for activists

Meanwhile, human rights activists Jestina Mukoko and Broderick Takawira
together with seven MDC activists Fidelis Chiramba, Concillia
Chinanzvavana, Emmanuel Chinanzvavana, Pieta Kaseke, Violet
Mupfuranhehwe, Collen Mutemagau and Audrey Zimbudzana, facing charges
of recruiting people for training in banditry, insurgency, sabotage or
terrorism, have been given a trial date.

The trial will be held during the second term of the High Court. The penalty if convicted is imprisonment, possibly for life.

All the abductees have spoken against the inhuman condition in the prisons.

BY GIFT PHIRI

Post published in: Politics

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