The absolute prohibition of torture and ill-treatment must now become a reality!

Torture is not just an expression of sadism, practiced by those who deal with prisoners. It becomes an institution, part of the system, authorised by governments, connived by officials at every level, and accepted as a necessary evil.

The 26th of June 2012 marks the 28th anniversary of the day the 1984 Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment came into force. Since 1998, it has been marked by the UN as the International Day in Support of the Victims of Torture, although there is little to celebrate. The International Day in Support of Victims of Torture is an occasion to highlight the unambiguous and absolute prohibition of torture and all forms of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. It is also an opportunity to express solidarity with the suffering of torture victims and their families, and to reaffirm the need for a global commitment to rehabilitate all victims of such abuse.

Since its formation in 1945, the United Nations has worked to eradicate torture. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights in its Article 5 says that "no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment". The Declaration obliges States to make torture a crime and to prosecute and punish those guilty of it. It notes explicitly that neither higher orders nor exceptional circumstances can justify torture.

As we mark the 28th anniversary of the United Nations' Convention Against Torture, Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition joins people around the world in honouring the victims of torture, paying tribute to all those who are courageously working to eradicate these inhuman practices from our society, and reaffirming the commitment to achieving this important goal. Serious human rights violations, including torture and ill-treatment of people are taking place with almost total impunity allegedly for national security reasons.

Whilst it's clearly intolerable that so many of the signatories to the Convention still routinely engage in torture, it's particularly distressing to note that many countries, who still regularly criticize other countries for human rights violations, are also backsliding to tyranny. Regrettably, in the past decade, opinion leaders, who are supposed to ensure greater respect for human rights, have all too often allowed themselves to be persuaded in the name of realism and expediency to tolerate practices tantamount to torture or ill-treatment. Zimbabwe is one of the few countries in Africa that has not ratified the International Convention against Torture, despite widespread reports of torture in the country. Alerted to the reality that cases of violence and torture are increasing in Zimbabwe with its government tolerating the practice, we feel compelled to state unequivocally that respect for human dignity means that torture is forbidden under all circumstances.

President Mugabe's ongoing cry against violence is a good new-start for a nation which has seen needless extra-judicial shedding of blood. But these calls come to naught if he personally does not act against the perpetrators who seem to enjoy impunity. Of late President Mugabe has used every opportunity coming his way to denounce violence. This is the sensible thing to do for violence is the savage's resort, when reason flies out. No serious nation can allow violence to circumscribe its narrative. It is not enough to simply talk of non-violence without walking the talk. A starting point would be the immediate arrest and trial of all those who committed political crimes in the past; arsonists and murderers still roam the streets with impunity when the right thing would be to bring them to justice. Bringing them to justice is the only way to exorcise the menacing ghosts that haunt the nation. Our continued indifference to such savage epoch suggests that the powers that be condone or, worse still, take ownership of the atrocities that took place.

Mugabe's continued exhortation of non-violence does not also make sense in the face of the activities of many Zanu PF-aligned outfits such as Chipangano which continues to behave as if its members are above the law. The high-density suburb of Mbare now lives under terrorization because of the shadowy Chipangano which enjoys the tacit approval and protection of the powers that be.

Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition remains dedicated to supporting the efforts of other nations, as well as international and other non-governmental organizations, to eradicate torture and encourage for the development and enforcement of strong laws that outlaw this abhorrent practice. It is incumbent on Zimbabwean authorities and judicial institutions to ensure that the United Nations' Convention Against Torture is not only proclaimed but also adhered to in everyday life.

Crisis Coalition therefore:

  • Reaffirms that the prohibition of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading punishments is absolute. To refute this is to undermine the fundamental value of human dignity, the basis of any society under the rule of law.

  • Affirms that freedom from torture cannot be considered separately from other human rights.

  • Appeals to political leaders, decision-makers and public opinion in every continent to be vigilant and active in the defense and promotion of human rights.
  • Calls upon judicial and quasi-judicial bodies in Zimbabwe to uphold the law in its entirety, mindful of the obligation to protect the victims, whoever they might be and irrespective of their beliefs and activities.

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