CSOs call for ratification of international treaty to curb human rights violations

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By Anna Chibamu

Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) have called upon the government to urgently ratify the United Nations Convention Against Torture (CAT) to prevent human rights violations.

The Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP) and Veritas in separate statements said the government, in ratifying and implementing the treaty, would show its commitment to protecting human rights.

CAT is a United Nations convention which requires States to take effective measures to prevent torture within their territories and prohibits them from transporting or extraditing people to any country where there is reason to believe they will be tortured.

It came into operation on 26th June 1987 and since then, the absolute prohibition against torture and other acts of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment has become accepted as a principle of customary international law [accepted by the international community as an absolute and non-derogable right].

ZPP, however, commended the government for ratifying other conventions.

As ZPP, we believe that the setting up of institutions such as the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission and the ratification of the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights is evidence of the Zimbabwean government’s commitment to protecting human rights and we applaud that.

We believe by availing empirical, credible and verified information on the human rights situation, we are making the job of government and other institutions that are mandated to protect human rights easier,” ZPP national director Perlagia Kapuya said.

The UN International Day in Support of Victims of Torture is held annually on 26 June to speak out against the crime of torture and to honour and support victims and survivors throughout the world.

Kapuya added, “As we commemorate this day, ZPP would like to encourage the government of Zimbabwe to sign, ratify and domesticate the Convention Against Torture (CAT). Zimbabwe and Tanzania are the only countries in SADC which have neither signed nor ratified the CAT.

Signing, ratifying and domesticating CAT is particularly important for Zimbabwe as there currently is no legal instrument to criminalize torture as provided for in section 53 of the Constitution, which speaks to freedom from torture.

Between 2019 and May 2024, ZPP reported recording a total of 63 cases in which victims were tortured. Between 2008 and 2018, 811 cases were recorded.

Kapuya told journalists during a training workshop in Harare that in 2008 alone, 452 violations were recorded and 15 incidents of abduction, where most victims were tortured, some losing their lives and some still living with psychological effects of torture but some of the perpetrators are yet to be prosecuted.

Sadly, in most incidents, the perpetrators have not been held accountable and this is why we as the citizens of Zimbabwe, together with you the media must fight to end impunity, fight for the promotion of all human rights and foster sustainable peace in Zimbabwe, which is our vision as ZPP.

The absence of the enjoyment of human rights is the greatest threat to peace. How can there be peace when human beings are being tortured, assaulted, and denied the freedom to associate and to assemble when they are denied the right to food, health, and participation in democratic processes like elections and peaceful protest? when people do not have registration documents, when people’s right to shelter is not ensured? When the intrinsic dignity of the human person is not valued?” the ZPP director added.

The 2024 UN International Day in Support of Victims of Torture theme is “Voices Against Torture: A Call for Global Justice and Human Rights”.

Veritas said, We urge the government to ratify and implement international treaties, such as the United Nations Convention against Torture (CAT) and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, to create robust legal frameworks that effectively combat torture.

We express our utmost condemnation of the inhumane practice of torture, which continues to be used as a method of coercion, intimidation, and punishment in Zimbabwe.  This gross violation of human dignity and international law must be addressed with utmost urgency.

Whilst urging the government to immediately set up the Zimbabwe Independent Complaints Commission (ZICC) to investigate reports of torture and related crimes perpetrated by the security services, Veritas also said Zimbabwean authorities must strengthen legal frameworks to criminalise and prevent torture, ensuring that perpetrators face stringent penalties.