Robert Mugabe urged to welcome UN fact-finding mission

A United Nations expert on torture has asked Zimbabwean authorities to entertain his fact-finding mission, which the government called off at the last minute.

The government, which invited Manfred Nowak, the UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment to conduct an eight day official fact-finding mission from October 28 to November 4, 2009, withdrew the invitation and postponed it to an unspecified date to accommodate a Southern African Development Community (SADC) ministerial troika that is visiting the country Thursday to resolve a fresh political crisis. Nowak was only informed of the cancellation of his visit whilst in Johannesburg and on transit to Harare.

But the torture investigator who intended to “gather first-hand information about torture and ill-treatment in the country” implored Zimbabwean authorities to allow him to proceed with the torture probe.

“Recent allegations that MDC supporters and human rights defenders have been arrested, harassed and intimidated during the past few days, highlight the urgency of objective fact-finding by an independent UN expert at this crucial stage.

The Special Rapporteur therefore calls upon the Government of Zimbabwe to receive him in Harare and allow the mission to go ahead as planned,” read part of a statement released Wednesday by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

The UN said Nowak feels that there is no basis to postpone his fact-finding mission.

“The Special Rapporteur welcomes the SADC initiative and all efforts to resolve the political crisis in the country. He also understands that the SADC Consultative process might lead to certain changes in his meetings with Government officials foreseen during his mission and offered his cooperation and flexibility to the Government in this respect.

He fails to be convinced, however, that the Consultative process on Thursday, October 29 should be a valid reason to cancel his eight-day mission at such a late stage,” the UN body said.

As part of his mission, the independent expert was scheduled to meet with government officials, victims of torture, national human rights institutions, civil society members and representatives of UN and other international agencies.