June 26th has been declared as the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture by the United Nations General Assembly. This day was institutionalised in the hope that there will be a world free from torture or other cruel, degrading, and inhuman treatment inflicted on our fellow human beings.
Torture is defined in the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment [CAT] [link] as severe pain or suffering, physical or mental, inflicted on a person by or with the sanction of a public official, in order to obtain information from the person, or to get the person to confess, or to intimidate the person, or for a reason based on discrimination, or for any other similar reason.
The CAT Convention
Torture is repulsive, stripping victims of their dignity and humanity. To mark its abhorrence of torture the UN General Assembly unanimously adopted the CAT Convention in 1984, and to date:
· 171 out of 193 member States of the United Nations have adopted the Convention, and
· 93 has adopted its Optional Protocol [link] which provides enforcement measures to detect and prevent torture.
Zimbabwe is one of the few countries that have not yet taken steps to adopt the Convention and its Protocol. This despite Parliament having resolved in 2001 that the Government should adopt them, and despite Ministerial statements that Zimbabwe would adopt them. Despite too section 53 of our Constitution, which outlaws torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.
Zimbabwe Must Accede to the CAT Convention
For years Veritas has urged the Government to live up to its pledges and accede to the CAT Convention and its Protocol, and to take effective steps to prevent torture in Zimbabwe.
This year, on Friday the 24th June, Veritas took the additional step of petitioning Parliament, calling on the August House to pass a resolution that the Government should:
· take all necessary steps for Zimbabwe to become a party to the CAT Convention and its Protocol, and
· enact legislation comprehensively and effectively outlawing torture as required by the Convention and Protocol.
Veritas annexed a model Bill to the petition, to facilitate the enactment of the necessary legislation. The model Bill can be accessed on the Veritas website [link].
By acceding to the CAT Convention we will show our nation’s commitment to respecting human rights and show that there is real change under the New Dispensation.
Veritas calls on all Members of Parliament, whatever their affiliation, to support the resolution we have requested Parliament to pass. Abolishing torture is not a partisan issue – it will demonstrate our country’s commitment to international law. Accordingly, Veritas calls on all members of the public to lobby their Members of Parliament to support our resolution.
Now is the time for us all to take a stand: we must outlaw torture now.