Tsvangirai dismayed by UN torture expert deportation

Harare, – The Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has expressed disappointment and grave concern at the illegal detention and subsequent deportation from Zimbabwe of Manfred Nowak, a UN Special Rapporteur on Torture.

"The Prime Minister is particularly incensed that this comes at a time when Zimbabwe is on a mission to re-engage the international community and solicit much-needed support following years of isolation," said Tsvangirai in a statement posted on his website.

"We are battling to convince the world that issues of human rights and the rule of law are being accorded their deserving priority and that incremental gains are being scored in the expansion of democratic space in the country. This action naturally attracts condemnation as it dents the country’s efforts to be an acceptable member of the family of progressive nations," said the Prime Minister.

"Nowak was meant to visit Zimbabwe from October 29 to November 4 at the invitation of the Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs Patrick Chinamasa (Zanu PF), " said Tsvangirai. "A request was submitted to the Prime Minister’s office that Mr. Nowack pays a courtesy call during his visit. The request was duly granted and set for Thursday the 29th of October at 1000hrs."

However Nowak had told reporters that he had been invited by Tsvangirai, adding: "if the Prime Minister is unable to get clearance for me to enter the country, it  tells a lot of present power problems and where the real power lies."

Tsvangirai said he only learnt of the deportation at about 0800hrs close to an hour after Nowak had been bundled out of the country.

"This is a major incident because you can’t on the one hand invite a special rapporteur to meet the prime minister and on the other hand somebody gives an order to the immigration police not to let me in," Nowak told the BBC’s World Today programme on Thursday.

His said his treatment showed there were clearly parts of the government who did not want him to assess "the current conditions of torture", and promised to file a strongly worded complaint.