FULL TEXT: Law Society Of Zimbabwe Statement On Alleged Abductions & Torture Of Citizens

The Law Society of Zimbabwe statement on reports of arbitrary arrests, abductions and torture of citizens 20 May 2020

The Law Society of Zimbabwe has noted with grave concern the recent media reports of violence against citizens of Zimbabwe in Bulawayo and Harare by alleged members of the Police Force.

As a legal profession that is mandated and seeks to uphold the rule of law and justice in Zimbabwe, the Society finds such allegations appalling.

These constitute a reversal of our aspirations for a democratic country that respects the Constitution and the rule of law.

They are even more concerning in light of previous incidents of violence, torture and abductions that have not been effectively addressed by the State.

On the 16th of April 2020, Nokuthula Mpofu and Ntombizodwa Mpofu were allegedly assaulted by police officers purporting to enforce lockdown regulations in Bulawayo.

The assaults were, according to the reports, not only physical but were accompanied by verbal abuse of a tribal nature.

Such behaviour coming from a national police service has no place in a peaceful and democratic Zimbabwe.

Such elements in a professional police force should be investigated swiftly and transparently.

The assaults echo the general but worrisome manner of the conduct of some law enforcement officers in enforcing the lockdown regulations.

While the Law Society of Zimbabwe takes note of reports that the matter is being investigated and that some officers have been arrested, the Society calls upon the State to ensure that the matter is thoroughly, credibly and transparently investigated and prosecuted.

Furthermore, it is the State’s duty to ensure that sufficient safeguards for the protection of citizens are put in place.

Worryingly there are similar reports that on the 13th of May 2020 Joana Mamombe, Cecilia Chimbiri and Netsai Marova after being arrested by alleged members of the police force, abducted and were later found dumped in rural Bindura having been severely tortured and sexually assaulted.

Prior to their discovery, efforts by their legal practitioners to locate them were fruitless.

These reports have to an extent been corroborated by a Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) report which undertook an independent investigation into the reports.

The Law Society is particularly worried that in the face of such grave allegations the response by the State has been disproportionate inadequate given the gravity of the situation.

The Society is concerned that allegations of the arbitrary use of violence and torture by security forces are becoming common-place in our country.

This poses a grave threat to our constitutional democracy. It undermines the fundamental values that are underpinned by our Constitution. More specifically:

(i) The right to personal security Which is provided for in Section 52 of the Constitution and includes freedom from all forms of violence.

(ii) Section 53 of the Constitution provides for freedom from torture or cruel, and inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment, and

(iii) the Rights of accused persons provided for in Section 70 of the Constitution All these rights are also provided for under international human rights law.

We unreservedly condemn the reported acts of barbarism against fellow citizens by security forces or persons purporting to be such. These continue to stain our constitutional values and negate the rule of law.

Such grave infractions on the right to personal security and freedom from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment have no place in our country.

In light of the above, we call on the State to discharge its constitutional duties and do the following:

1. Timeously, transparently and credibly investigate and prosecute all cases of
violence.

2. Without delay, establish an independent complaints mechanism against
members of the security services in terms of section 210 of the Constitution.

3. Ratify the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

4. Ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.

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