New Zimbabwe (London)

28 June 2014

Zimbabwe: No Torture in Prisons, but At Police Cells

PRISON inmates in Zimbabwe have largely been spared from any torture by wardens, even though their living conditions remained dire, a human rights official has observed.

Zimbabwe Human Rights Commissioner, Joseph Kurebwa said the country's prisons, once likened to death traps by human rights, are in fact torture-free cages.

"We tested this on 30 May, 2013 when we visited Harare Central Prison which houses more than 2,000 inmates," Kurembwa said at a panel discussion this past Thursday.

"During the visit, we got the chance of parading the inmates who freely told us their concerns. Believe you me, no one of the prisoners raised a torture related complaint.

"The only complaints we received were to do with clothing and food but not a single one of them said was being tortured while in custody."

But the prisoners, so said Kurembwa, claimed the worst in the hands of the police during investigations into their crimes.

Police were said to be resorting to inflicting physical pain to try and force suspects to admit to alleged offences.

Human rights defenders have identified Harare central and Matapi police cells in Mbare as being among the most deplorable places for prisoners.

Two years ago, the firebrand Women Of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) group, successfully petitioned the Supreme Court to ensure Harare Central Police cells met basic hygienic conditions.

Kurebwa added: "We are, very soon, going to inspect police cells and see for ourselves their conditions. We are also going to inspect the Harare Magistrate police cells and get the facts."

The panel discussion was organised by the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition as part of the International Day Against Torture commemorations.

Meanwhile, Zimbabwe is still yet to ratify the Convention Against (CAT), a situation which rights watch organisations say has allowed leeway for law enforcement agents to torture those still under their investigations.

Amnesty International Zimbabwe on Thursday challenged government to ratify CAT and end torture.

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