Zimbabwe’s adoption of a new Constitution with an expansive Bill of Rights in 2013 was a major achievement, but since then the government has implemented no meaningful legislative reforms to align existing laws to the constitution.
In 2016, President Robert Mugabe undermined the independence of the judiciary and of the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) through verbal assaults on the two institutions. The government should ensure and respect the independence of the judiciary and the ZHRC.
Those who criticize President Mugabe or his government, including human rights defenders, civil society activists, government opponents, and street vendors, face harassment, threats, and arbitrary arrest by the police and state security agents. The government has failed to ensure justice and accountability for serious past abuses. The authorities have not fully investigated the abduction and enforced disappearance of pro-democracy activist and human rights defender Itai Dzamara on March 9, 2015. The government should immediately provide information on his fate or whereabouts and bring those responsible to justice.
Torture and other ill-treatment of detainees, including opposition supporters and civil society activists, by police and members of Zimbabwe’s intelligence services remain a serious and systemic human rights problem in Zimbabwe, despite the government’s accepting to “ratify the [Convention against Torture], implement its standards into national law and take immediate and concrete actions against the practice of torture by State officials” during the 2011 UPR. Acts of torture that Human Rights Watch has documented include severe beatings that involve victims being punched, kicked, and struck with batons; beatings on the soles of the feet; repeated banging of detainees’ heads against walls; and the shackling of detainees in painful positions.
The government rarely investigates allegations of torture by police or intelligence officers. In addition to ratifying the Convention against Torture, Zimbabwe should take steps to implement recommendations it received during the UPR to fully implement its provisions.
This article was published on HRW's website on March 16, 2017.
By Mercy Mujuru
ZIMBABWEAN courts have ordered the deduction from a police officer's salary as compensation for torturing a high school student to induce a confession. Pupil Brighton Sanyanga had in 2014 been tortured at a fearsome police station east of the country in a case of malicious damage to property after student rioting.
The Mutare Magistrates' Court has granted an application to garnish US$100 (R1 300) per month from Constable Crispen Chikazhe in satisfaction of a judgment debt, which was granted against the police officer for his brutality when he tortured Sanyanga, then aged 19, of Pafiwa High School in Mutasa District in Manicaland Province. Sanyanga, who was an "A" level (Matric) student, had been invited for questioning at Nyanga police station. In an effort to extract information from Sanyanga, Chikazhe tortured the student physically by exposing him to electrical shock and threatened to kill him. Sanyanga's lawyer, Peggy Tavagadza, of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) intervened by suing Chikazhe on behalf of the student.
Courts awarded damages in the sum of $570 to Sanyanga, for torture, pain and suffering, medical expenses and transport costs. Chikazhe reneged prompting Tavagadza to file an application in the court in January seeking an order to compel the Salary Services Bureau, which processes government employees' salaries, to garnish the officer's salary. This is not the first time ZLHR has intervened after police officers at Nyanga police station tortured locals. In one of the cases, two officers were ordered to pay $3 000 in damages for torturing hotel security guard Tsitsi Chimhutu when they were investigating a break-in at Montclair Hotel last year. Officers tortured her to induce a confession in a case of $2 500 which had gone missing.
This article was published on All Africa's website on March 13, 2017.