A LAWYER grouping with an interest in legal and parliamentary issues, Veritas, has made a Constitutional Court (ConCourt) application to compel government to set up an independent mechanism to deal with human rights violations by the security sector as is stated in the state constitution.
Filed under Case Number CCZ 42/15 and titled “Rashid Mahiya versus minister of Justice and Others”, the suit seeks to compel government to provide an effective and independent mechanism for receiving and investigating complaints from the public about misconduct on the part of army, police, intelligence and prison officers.
According to the applicants Veritas, “this case has been instituted because of the delay (two and a half years) in carrying out the important constitutional provision for such a mechanism”.
Section 210 of Zimbabwe’s constitution, adopted in 2013, states that “an Act of Parliament must provide an effective and independent mechanism for receiving and investigating complaints from members of the public about misconduct on the part of members of the security services (i.e. the Police Service, the Defence Forces, the State intelligence services and the Prisons and Correctional Service), and for remedying any harm caused by such misconduct.”
However, as noted by Veritas, government has failed to implement this constitutional requirement more than two years after the Constitution was adopted.
Veritas argues the case has been made more urgent by the increasing heavy-handedness of the police in breaking up public demonstrations, as seen by their violent disruption of recent protests by rural teachers (in Harare’s central business district) and operators of commuter omnibuses (in Chitungwiza).
“Anyone who has seen pictures in the press of police officers apparently beating teachers and commuter omnibus drivers will realise how necessary such a complaints mechanism is. It will also help the police to fulfil their constitutional mandate while respecting the citizens of Zimbabwe,” wrote Veritas.
“This is a public interest matter and Veritas urges everyone who is concerned about the conduct of the police and other security service personnel and the use of violence in the curtailment of civil liberties, especially the right of to demonstrate and to express views freely, to attend the court hearing”.
In their court application, the applicant Mahiya gives a summary of the “severe period of human rights dislocation and abuse of the rule of law” experienced by ordinary citizens at the hands of the state.
“Various atrocities and flagrant violations of human rights have been committed against our people by the State at various levels…I have witnessed people who have been tortured, killed and have had their homes and property violently burnt or thrashed to the ground,” states Mahiya.
Mahiya averred that such injustices made it imperative for the independent commission to be set up.
He also said that there was no justification in the long delay in passing what should be “such a simple Bill” to establish the commission.