Commemorated every year on 26 June, International Day In Support of Victims of Torture is an opportunity to call on all stakeholders across the world to unite in support of survivors and victims of torture around the world, who have been victims and survivors of torture and those who are still tortured today.
It is also important for stakeholders to evaluate progress made in the
commitment to eradicate the pervasive culture of torture, an
international crime. The practice has long attained the status of
customary international law, and it can never be permitted under any
In the face of the coronavirus pandemic, International Day in Support
of Victims of Torture is being commemorated under the theme
“combatting torture and ill-treatment in the COVID-19 context”.
Across the world, several countries have put measures in place to
prevent and mitigate exposure to Coronavirus (COVID-19) including
imposing lockdowns as well as setting up quarantine facilities.
Zimbabwe has been no exception. While ZLHR acknowledges the clear
imperative to take firm action to combat COVID-19, all state actors
must uphold the obligation to prevent torture, inhuman or degrading
treatment. Any measures introduced to mitigate the spreading of
COVID-19 must never result in torture, inhuman or degrading treatment
of persons deprived of their liberty.
While the Declaration of a State of National Disaster empowered
government to promulgate some national lockdown regulations to deal
with the COVID-19 pandemic, this does not in any way limit its
obligation to respect fundamental rights contained in the
Constitution. Section 83(3) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe prohibits
the practice of torture under any circumstances including the
Declaration of National State of Disaster or even a State of
ZLHR is extremely concerned at the increased incidents of torture
during the lockdown over the last three months. Equally compelling is
the complete failure by the state to fight impunity by investigating,
prosecuting and punishing perpetrators of torture. Instead, while
appearing as if it is investigating the incidents of torture following
complains by victims, government has in some instances proceeded to
prosecute some victims of torture.
Human rights defenders deprived of their liberty during the outbreak
of coronavirus pandemic have faced increased risks by being subjected
to torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in
violation of provisions of the Constitution which outlaws this
practice in section 53.
The lack of commitment to eradicate the culture of torture by
government is glaring. Government has in the past accepted
recommendations made by several United Nations member states to ratify
the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman
or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and its optional Protocol. This
recommendation was accepted during the first cycle review in 2011 of
the United Nations Human Rights Council-led Universal Periodic Review
Mechanism. In November 2016 during the second cycle review, this
recommendation was made again as it had not been implemented.
Government proceeded to reject this recommendation in March 2017.
As an organisation committed to seeking justice for all victims of
torture through litigation and other forms of redress, ZLHR affirms
its commitment to continue the fight against torture, other cruel,
inhuman, degrading treatment or punishment and calls upon government
• Criminalise torture, investigate all incidents and prosecute all
cases of torture;
• Ensure full accountability of all perpetrators and guarantee redress
and rehabilitation to victims;
• Establish a mechanism to ensure that monetary damages granted by
courts in cases of torture are timeously honoured;
• Commit to eradicating torture by ratifying and domesticating the
Convention against Torture, Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment and
its Optional Protocol;
• Accept the outstanding request for a fact-finding country visit by
the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or
Degrading Treatment or Punishment to examine some questions relevant
to rising incidences of torture with a view to developing a set of
recommendations to end the pervasive practice of torture;
• Establish independent complaints mechanisms which afford members of
the public with a platform to report misconduct and torture offences
against members of the security services, agencies or other offenders
in line with the Zimbabwe Constitution;
• Align provisions of the Police Act with the Constitution to minimise
cases of torture.