Zim torture probed

manfred_nowakHARARE A United Nations expert on torture will next week visit Zimbabwe to gather first-hand information about torture and ill-treatment in the country. The visit comes at a time when several government ministers and State intelligence operatives are facing lawsuits for their role in the abduction and torture of scores of human rights and political activi

Manfred Nowak, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, will visit Zimbabwe from 28 October to 4 November, the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said in a statement.

The statement said the visit was at the invitation of the Zimbabwe government, the first time Harare has issued an invitation to an independent UN Human Rights Council expert.

This mission is a positive sign of the Government of Zimbabwes willingness to engage with the UN Human Rights System and permit open and unfettered access to places of detention, Nowak said in the statement.

The Human Rights Council is an intergovernmental body within the UN system made up of 47 States responsible for strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights around

the globe. The Council was created by the UN General Assembly on 15 March 2006 with the main purpose of addressing situations of human rights violations and make ecommendations on them.

As part of his mission, the independent expert will meet with government officials, national human rights institutions, civil society members and representatives of UN agencies and other

international organisations.

He will also visit places where persons are deprived of their liberty, including prisons and police stations, the UN said.

Nowak will visit prison facilities which High Court Judge President Rita Makarau once said had crumbled to almost being non-existent.

We had a number of deaths in our prisons because health facilities had become almost non-existent. And for us in the justice delivery system, sentencing an accused person became

an agonising exercise because you knew you were sentencing a person to death. Even if it was a three-year sentence, it would still seem like a death sentence because of prison conditions, Justice Makarau told a Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) workshop in July.

Prison officials said at the same workshop that they had in the last three years recorded the worst and highest death rate in the history of the country while the entire prison population is walking half naked.

Zimbabwes 72 jails have a total holding capacity of 17 000, but are carrying about 13,000 prisoners, according to prison officials. I see this visit as a real opportunity to engage

in dialogue with both the State and civil society, as Zimbabwe builds its democratic institutions, said Nowak.

Based on the information obtained during the visit, Nowak will present a report containing his conclusions and recommendations to the Human Rights Council.

Nowak, appointed Special Rapporteur in December 2004 by the UN Commission on Human Rights, is independent from any government and serves in his individual capacity.

He has previously served as member of the Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances, the UN expert on missing persons in the former Yugoslavia, the UN expert

on legal questions on enforced disappearances, and as a judge at the Human Rights Chamber Zim torture probed for Bosnia and Herzegovina. Nowak is Professor of Constitutional Law and Human Rights at the University of Vienna, and Director of the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute of Human Rights.

The UN experts visit comes at a time when more than 16 human rights and political activists are demanding US$1.2 million each from co-Ministers of Home Affairs, Kembo Mohadi

and Giles Mutsekwa, Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa and former State Security Minister Didymus Mutasa, police chief Augustine Chihuri, prisons commissioner Paradzai Zimondi and

Central Intelligence Organisation directorgeneral Happyton Bonyongwe for their alleged abduction, unlawful detention and deprivation of liberty last year.

The activists are suing also Superintendent Magwenzi, Attorney General Johannes Tomana and Brigadier General Asher Tapfumaneyi.

Tomana is targeted for his failure to order the arrest and prosecution of the alleged kidnappers.

The 16 allege that they were subjected to different forms of torture during their illegal detention. The activists include Manuel and Concillia Chinanzvavana, Andrison Manyere,

Broderick Takawira and Jestina Mukoko.

From the Legal Monitor, a newletter published by Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights. For feedback pse email: [email protected]

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