Swiss-based Inter-Parliamentary Union raises questions over continued incarceration of Sikhala, deteriorating human rights situation 

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By Leopold Munhende | Chief Correspondent

SWITZERLAND headquartered Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) has expressed disappointment at former Zengeza West legislator Job Sikhala’s continued incarceration without trial, over a year after his arrest.

IPU, an organisation of national parliaments formed in 1889, to which Zimbabwe is a signatory said it had failed to make sense of the courts’ decisions and how they could support such prolonged pretrial detention against the country’s own statutes.

Sikhala was arrested on June 14, 2022, on allegations of inciting violence following the heinous murder of his client Moreblessing Ali.

He has been kept at Chikurubi Maximum Prison since, with numerous attempts to have him released on bail all coming to nought.

In a statement released recently, IPU highlighted concerns raised by an unnamed complainant plus an independent report by Botswana Judge Rahim Kahn who attended, observed and analysed evidence presented against Sikhala.

“IPU is deeply concerned over the several deficiencies that the trial observer identified in the handling of the legal proceedings brought against Sikhala, in particular the acceptance of inconsistent and unreliable evidence against Sikhala and the repeated denial of bail in contradiction with established principles of law in Zimbabwe and other common law legal systems.

“IPU believes that the report (by Kahn) gives serious weight to the accusation made by the complainant that the case made against Sikhala came merely in response to the exercise of his right to free speech; is led to believe, therefore, that he should never have been detained and prosecuted in the first place, hopes that higher-level courts will carefully and critically assess what credible evidence, if any, exists in support of the charges and will adopt a fair verdict, and is eager to be kept informed of developments in this regard.

“IPU is dismayed that Sikhala has been held in Chikurubi maximum security prison on remand since his arrest on 14 June 2022 and that all his applications for bail have been denied, it fails to see how his detention in a maximum security prison could possibly be justified and is shocked by reports that Sikhala’s health has gravely deteriorated and that he is being held in inhumane conditions,

“It fails to understand the legal basis for his prolonged incarceration,” said IPU.

The court’s move to deny firebrand Sikhala bail, denied him an opportunity to contest for his St. Mary’s seat.

His arrest is one of the many issues raised by Election Observer Missions (EOMs) at August’s polls as his opposition party Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) felt Zanu PF and the state had targeted him.