HUMAN rights lawyer Gabriel Shumba has taken the Zimbabwean government to the African Com-mission on Human and Peoples’ Rights to answer charges of torture by state security agents while represent
ing an opposition legislator.
Shumba, through his legal counsel, David Padilla, brought the action against President Robert Mugabe’s regime claiming he was kidnapped, tortured and made to swear allegiance to Mugabe by Zimbabwean security agents while representing MDC St Mary’s MP Job Sikhala in January last year. In his papers, Shumba said he had sought legal relief through a number of channels in Zimbabwe – all in vain.
“Considering the fact that Shumba is no longer in the country where the remedies would be sought and that he fled the country against his will after being tortured and his life threatened, it is the complainant’s submission that remedies cannot be pursued without impediment and hence are not available,” said Padilla in papers lodged with the secretary of the commission, Germain Baricako.
Shumba was arrested while taking instructions from his client for legal representation in a matter where Sikhala was being charged with attempting to overthrow the government.
According to the papers submitted to the commission, riot police raided the room where the meeting was taking place and confiscated Shumba’s practising certificate, diary, files, documents as well as his mobile phone. He further alleges that he was slapped across the face several times and kicked with booted feet by a number of officers.
“At around midday he was removed from the cell, a hood placed over his head and thereafter he was driven for about an hour to an unknown location where he was led down what seemed like a tunnel that led to a room underground,” the papers said.
“The hood was removed and he was stripped naked. With his hands in handcuffs and feet bound in a foetal position, a plank was thrust between his legs and arms.
“Thereafter some of about 15 interrogators began to assault him with booted feet and gave him the option of ‘telling the truth or dying a slow and painful death’.”
The legal papers allege that he was intermittently electrocuted and was forced to take a substance that made him lose control of his body functions.
“At 7:00 pm he was unbound and forced to write several documents under dictation by the interrogators in which he implicated himself and several senior MDC members in subversive activities,” the papers state.
“He was forced to agree to work for the Central Intelligence Organisation, to swear allegiance to President Robert Mugabe and to promise that he would not disclose what had happened to him to the independent press or the courts.”
Shumba was only set free after his lawyers won a High Court injunction ordering his release after several attempts to gain access to him had been thwarted.
Central to Shumba’s case is a provision of the African Charter on Human Rights which guarantees that every human being is entitled to respect for his life and the integrity of his person.
“The electrocuting of the complainant and applying of chemical substance into his body is manifestly in direct contravention of the right to personal integrity as guaranteed in Article 4 of the Charter,” said Padilla.
“By subjecting the complainant to conditions of physical and mental harm with such practices as electrocution, beating and denial of food and water, the respondent subjected the applicant to torture or otherwise cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment in contravention of the provisions of Article 5 of the Charter,” he said.
The case is set to be heard during the next session of the commission.