African Commission finds Zimbabwe responsible for torture- decision comes nine years after receiving complaint

In 2003, human rights lawyer Gabriel Shumba was arrested by the Zimbabwean riot police, and was subjected to prolonged electric shocks in the mouth, genitals, fingers, toes and other parts of the body. He was forced to drink his own blood and was made to sign a confession that he was involved in organising, planning or conspiring to overthrow the government through unconstitutional means.

He managed to flee to South Africa and in 2004 filed a complaint with the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights claiming, among other issues, violation of Article 5 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights. Article 5 of the African Charter prohibits torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment and treatment. It took the Commission 9 years to arrive at a decision.

Gabriel Shumba, Chairperson of the Zimbabwe Exiles Forum, Advocate of the High Court of South Africa, and Member of the Johannesburg Bar

In its decision, the Commission noted that Mr. Shumba had submitted ‘more than adequate evidence’ that he was tortured, which should have at least prompted an official investigation in Zimbabwe. The Commission concluded therefore that the Zimbabwean government is responsible for the torture done to Mr Shumba. The Commission ordered Zimbabwe to pay Mr Shumba adequate compensation. Mr Shumba said: ‘This important ruling adds to Africa’s struggle against impunity and the case is representative of thousands who have suffered torture and various indignities at the hands of a repressive regime in Zimbabwe’.


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