Harare – 12 May, 2015 –The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) recently conducted a ‘Prevention of Torture’ training workshop in Harare for Commissioners and Secretariat staff.
The training workshop was facilitated by renowned human rights lawyer, Mr Andrew Makoni of Mbidzo, Muchadehama and Makoni, Legal Practioners; Mr Otieno Aluoka, a Human Rights Consultant from Kenya as well as Mr Fidelis Mudimu, National Programmes Director from the Counselling Services Unit.
According to Article 1 of the ‘Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (Commonly referred to as the United Nations Convention Against Torture (CAT),’ torture is defined as any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person, information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed, or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.
Speaking at the training workshop, Commissioner Professor Caroll Themba Khombe, noted that the training on prevention of torture was coming at an opportune time when Zimbabwe is grappling with the disappearance of freelance journalist and human rights activist Itayi Dzamara who was abducted on 9 March 2015 from a barber shop and has not yet been found.
Commissioner Kwanele Jirira further explained that special attention should be devoted to torture because it is one of the most heinous violations of a person’s human rights. “It impairs the centre of human dignity,” said Commissioner Jirira. She noted that the ZHRC will utilise the knowledge on torture prevention gained during the training in investigations, prison visits and human rights awareness campaigns. “This will ultimately enhance the ZHRC’s efforts in service delivery,” she added.
One of the facilitators, Mr Makoni explained that while the torture that was being focused on during the training workshop, was torture that was mainly perpetrated by public officials, torture happens in most spheres of life. He explained that torture can take place at work, home, school and many other places.
Torture comes in various forms that include psychological, physical or emotional. It has many effects that include nightmares, post-traumatic stress disorder and depression among other things. Torture does not only affect the victim, it also affects the perpetrator, family and acquaintances.
Commissioners and members of the Secretariat had an opportunity to listen to a heart rending story and experience of one of the torture victims, Ms Jestina Mukoko.
Section 53 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe states that, “no person may be subjected to physical or psychological torture or to cruel inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”
The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission therefore has a role to play in educating various stakeholders about the ills of torture.
While other countries have ratified the United Nations Convention on Torture, Zimbabwe is yet to ratify. Zimbabwe is one of only six countries in Africa that has not ratified the United Nations Convention on Torture.