End pervasive and outdated practice of torture

ON the occasion of the United Nations (UN)’s International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) stands in solidarity with all those who have been victims, survivors of torture, as well as their families who may have been indirectly affected by the impact of this heinous crime. Today, ZLHR reaffirms its determination to combat this unacceptable barbaric practice.

Commemorated on the 26 June every year, the UN International Day in Support of Victims of Torture is a day to honour victims and survivors of torture, a reminder of the ongoing plight of victims and survivors of torture who urgently need help and a day to commit to renewed and increased support to help combat torture in all its forms.

In Zimbabwe, it is regrettable that 37 years after attaining independence, the culture of torture and the impunity that follows this act, persists. Regrettably, cases of mental and physical torture, ill-treatment and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment continue to be intentionally inflicted on women, men, children mainly at the instigation of State and non-State actors.

Torture is a crime under international law and the systematic or widespread practice of torture constitutes a crime against humanity and hence it is absolutely prohibited and cannot be justified under any circumstances.

It is disturbing that torture has not yet been criminalised even though Section 53 of the Constitution, enshrines freedom from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and reiterates the prohibition of torture under international law. ZLHR remains committed to seeking justice for all victims of torture through litigation. As an organisation committed to fostering a culture of human rights, in the absence of political will to reform laws and institutions fuelling torture, ZLHR will continue to litigate and seek justice for victims and survivors and push for reform of administrative practices and other conduct that fuels torture.

In March 2017, the government of Zimbabwe rejected recommendations made by several United Nations member states calling for the ratification of the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and its optional Protocol. These recommendations made during the Human Rights Council-led Universal Periodic Review Mechanism would, if fully implemented eradicate the culture of torture.

Therefore, ZLHR urges government to;

•    Fully embrace the recommendations to ratify and domesticate the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and its Protocol;
•    Accept the outstanding request for a fact-finding country visit by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment to examine some questions relevant to torture;
•    Criminalise torture, prosecute all cases of torture and take adequate measures to prevent all forms of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment;
•    Ensure full accountability of all perpetrators and guarantee redress and rehabilitation to victims including the establishment of a mechanism to ensure that monetary damages granted by courts in cases of torture are honoured timeously.
•    Align provisions of the Police Act with the Constitution to minimise cases of torture.


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