Govt afraid to ratify protocol on torture

HARARE - Zimbabwe is afraid to ratify the optional protocol on the Convention Against Torture (Cat) as government is paranoid that the behaviour of some of its State institutions may invoke legal penalties, a Zimbabwe NGO Forum official has said.

Lloyd Kuveya told the Daily News on Sunday that while the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) clearly protects people from being tortured, it was broadened to create Cat.

According to Article 7 of ICCPR; “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

“In particular, no one shall be subjected without his free consent to medical or scientific experimentation.”

He said since the government of Zimbabwe ratified ICCPR it only makes sense that it be a part of Cat.

“Government is reluctant because torture is an international crime but the convention does not necessarily deal with criminal liability.

“It simply ensures that government puts in place laws that protect citizens from torture and also makes sure that those that commit torture are held civilly liable for the payment of damages but no one will go to prison.

“For me that is really the fear,” he said. He added that the fear also stems from the fact that government may be liable to paying damages if its security forces are reported to the courts.

Kuveya said another contributing factor why government feared Cat was the way State institutions use force when trying to disperse protesters.

“When citizens, even prisoners are treated in a cruel and inhumane manner, the government itself through State institutions can be held liable in terms of civil damages,” he said.

Elasto Mugwadi, Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission chairperson said government should seriously consider ratifying the convention which has already been accepted by more than 150 countries.

He said it was puzzling that they are not signatory to the optional protocol whose rights are also enshrined in Zimbabwe’s Constitution.

“They are only afraid of the word torture; otherwise I do not see why Zimbabwe is not ratifying Cat.

“However, all that also depends on the state of preparedness of the country in upholding such conventions and protocols,” Mugwadi said.

The State through its security agents has been using force to disperse protesting residents, vendors and students.

Vendors have been harassed for plying their trade on the streets of major towns.

Female members of the Zimbabwe National Students Union were last month assaulted by riot police after they held a peaceful demonstration on the streets of Harare demanding better living conditions for female students in tertiary institutions.

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