Torture, a tragedy in Zimbabwe – Gwisai

Harare, – Detained social justice activist Munyaradzi Gwisai on Thursday lamented the torture sessions to which suspects are subjected by state security agents as 'tragic and inexpressible'.\r\n

Gwisai, who testified before Harare Magistrate Munamato Mutevedzi during an application for refusal of placement on remand for the 45 human rights activists filed by defence lawyer Alec Muchadehama disclosed in court that he, together with other activists, were subjected to torture sessions during their detention by the police at Harare Central Police Station.

Gwisai said the torture sessions were aimed at securing confessions from the activists which would implicate them in the commission of treason, a charge which they are facing in court.

In narrating his ordeal, Gwisai said he was tortured together with five other detainees in a room in the basement at Harare Central Police Station by nine state security agents who included some police officers who had arrested them.

During the torture sessions, which were recorded on video, the detainees were asked to recount what had transpired during their meeting which was held last weekend in central Harare.

Gwisai said each of the six detainees received a series of lashes which were administered while they lay down on their stomachs. He added that he received between 15 and 20 lashes as the police and his tormentors sought to obtain confessions from him and the other detainees.

Gwisai said the pain which he endured and suffered as a result of the torture sessions was “indescribable, sadistic and a tragedy for Zimbabwe”.

The University of Zimbabwe labour law lecturer said it was extremely difficult for him to sit and walk because of the torture sessions he underwent together with other detainees.

Gwisai said the meeting held on Saturday was held to discuss ISO business and issues of democracy and constitutionalism and not to plot the toppling of the government as alleged by the police and prosecutors. He added that the meeting which was attended by HIV/AIDS activists was also meant to commemorate the life of a deceased HIV and AIDS activist, Navigator Mungoni.

Earlier on Muchadehama outlined the detainees’ complaints against the police.

The detainees’ lawyer said the arrest of his clients was unlawful as they were not advised of the reason/s for their arrest. He also advised that they were over-detained in filthy and stinking police cells. He said the detainees only knew of the treason charge when they finally appeared in court on Wednesday and no warned and cautioned statements were recorded in relation to the treason charge.

Muchadehama told the court that the police extensively subjected his clients to severe interrogation sessions where they attempted to coax some of the detainees to turn against their colleagues and be considered State witnesses.

He said some of the detainees were assaulted, brutalised and tortured while in police custody. The defence lawyer said the torture sessions were administered through assaults all over the detainees’ bodies, under their feet and buttocks through the use of broomsticks, metal rods, pieces of timber, open palms and some blunt objects.

In his application for refusal of remand Muchadehama argued that the facts as outlined by the State did not constitute the commission of an offence.

The matter continues on Monday when prosecutor Edmore Nyazamba, who applied for the placement of the detainees on remand, cross examines Gwisai. In the meantime, all 45 will remain incarcerated in remand prison in Harare and at Chikurubi Women’s Prison for the women detainees.