Heal Zimbabwe Statement on the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture

This is a day on which we pay our respects to those who have endured the unimaginable. This is an occasion for the world to speak up against the unspeakable. It is long overdue that a day be dedicated to remembering and supporting the many victims and survivors of torture around the world. — Former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, 1998.

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.

For Zimbabwe, the occasion for this year’s commemorations comes at a time when there has been slow pace in the implementation of a legislative framework that seeks to ensure that survivors of torture get justice. Past elections particularly the 2002, 2005 and 2008 ones witnessed massive cases of violence and human rights abuses where torture was used in many instances as a tool to inflict pain and punish political opponents.

The snail’s pace that has characterized the full operationalization of the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC), has also dealt a major blow to healing and reconciliation efforts in the country. The Independent Commission is charged with the responsibility of ensuring post conflict justice, healing and reconciliation.

Heal Zimbabwe has been mobilizing and facilitating for survivors of torture to pile pressure on the Government to fully operationalise the Commission. During the NPRC public hearings held earlier on this year, the survivors of torture advocated for legislation that delivers justice and safeguards them against revictimisation. The delays by the Government to swiftly set up the NPRC is itself a threat to the prevalence of peace as the nation readies for the 2018 elections. Without a mechanism such as the NPRC, which also has a mandate of developing programmes that ensure that persons subjected to torture or persecution and other forms of abuse receive rehabilitative treatment or support, prospect for peace are likely to be hampered.

Heal Zimbabwe implores the Government to take all the requisite steps to ensure that the NPRC becomes fully operational. Perpetrators of past episodes of torture and violence must be brought to book and as it helps to deter would-be perpetrators. As a UN member state, the Zimbabwean Government must also commit to the upholding of human rights and create a conducive environment for the holding of violence free elections.

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