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Tortured Zimbabwe soldier fights Mnangagwa

By Gift Phiri

HARARE – A former Special Forces officer is suing Defence minister Emerson Mnangagwa and two officers in the Counter Intelligence Unit of the army for US$1,5 million for unjust imprisonment and torture.

Vice President John Nkomo, Defence Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa (who led the CIO during the Gukurahundi Massacres) and President Robert Mugabe
Vice President John Nkomo, Defence Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa (who led the CIO during the Gukurahundi Massacres) and President Robert Mugabe

Sergeant Wilfred Jaure worked for the Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA)’s crack unit, the Commando Regiment, before being detained for 277 days at 2 Brigade Detention Barracks — a Zimbabwe military facility for holding army personnel that have been tried and convicted.

The military accused and suspected Jaure of helping get classified information to the enemy and engaging in political activities. But he was never charged with a crime and says he never broke the law but was discharged after refusing to carry out an undisclosed classified mission.

He was arrested on July 24, 2008, three days before a blood-soaked presidential run-off election. Lawyers for Jaure say he was arrested by officers from the ZNA Counter Intelligence Unit and held without justification while his family knew nothing about his whereabouts or even whether he was still alive.

Court papers filed in the Supreme Court on March 6, 2012 on his behalf say he was repeatedly abused for 277 days, then suddenly released without explanation on April 28, 2009 and demoted.

He resigned from the force in September 2009. Now he has filed suit in the Supreme Court arguing that Mnangagwa personally approved torturous interrogation techniques and controlled his detention without access to courts in violation of his constitutional rights.

Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights attorneys, who are representing the plaintiff on a pro bono basis, say the military kept their client behind bars without a hearing or a Court Marshall.

Mnangagwa is cited as the first respondent in his official capacity as Defence minister, with Lieutenant Huni based at the KGVI Army Headquarters and Warrant Officer Class 1 Muzira, who is based at the army’s Counter Intelligence Unit at 2 Brigade at the Cranborne Barracks in Harare cited as the second and third respondents respectively.

Jaure says in his Supreme Court application that Huni and Muzira, who he alleges viciously tortured him throughout his 277-day detention, violated his constitutional rights.

“In particular, I allege that my constitutionally entrenched protection from torture as enshrined in Section 15(1) of the Constitution was contravened by respondents, jointly and severally,” Jaure says in his papers.

“I believe that this honourable court is the only court that can sufficiently deal with this matter as it involves the contravention of a constitutionally guaranteed right.

“I also submit that torture is a very serious transgression and cannot be equated to assault for which a victim can claim normal delictual compensation. I verily believe that torture is serious enough to warrant this honourable court to fashion the remedy of constitutional damages in terms of its powers outlined in Section 24 (4) of the Constitution.”

Jaure is seeking a draft order from the Supreme Court declaring his 277-day detention unlawful in terms of Section 15(1) of the Constitution.

“Consequently, the 1st respondent (Mnangagwa) is hereby ordered to pay the applicant the sum of $1 500 000 ($1.5m) in constitutional damages,” says the draft order being sought, and wants the respondents to foot the cost of the suit.

The Supreme Court application details the harrowing torture. After three days in detention at 2 Brigade where he was held incommunicado in solitary confinement, he alleges Lt Huni and Warrant Officer Muzira interrogated him for months.

He says he was subjected to physical attacks by the two that left him in constant fear for his life in a bid to extract information and possibly a confession. “The interrogations I describe above involved extreme torture, which torture I was made to undergo for consecutive days at a time,” Jaure said in his court papers.

“The torture, assaults and psychological torment was extreme. Specifically my interrogators used electric shocks all over my body especially my genitalia, hands and toes.

“Periodically the interrogators would also carry out vicious and sadistic attacks all over my body with various objects, which included iron rod switches and other crude implements that they could get hold off.”

The court papers also show that the two army officers also used water boarding on Jaure. “I was hung upside down while my head was submerged in a bucket of water in an effort to simulate drowning,” Jaure says.

“This was done repeatedly over the months and in the later stages of my incarceration I would knock over the bucket using my head. Such conduct would get me viciously attacked but this was better than the feeling of drowning.”

He says the torture was “sadistic.”

“At times when they did not use electricity they would hit my genitals with elastic bands,” Jaure says. He further claims that he was deliberately starved during the incarceration.

“I was subjected to what army personnel call a ‘spare diet.’ This involves eating one meal a day often this was just (the staple) sadza (a thick porridge) without any relish or accompaniment. I lost a considerable amount of weight as I was systematically being starved.”

Jaure says he was shackled right through his 277-day detention. “I was forced to wear leg irons for considerable periods of time even when I was not being moved,” he says.

“This was not only painful but dehumanising as I was treated like a wild animal. I was also frequently placed in various stress positions the most common would be shackling my hands to my ankles and being left like that for hours in what we called the ‘Dark Room.’”

His court papers say he feared for his life.

“They repeatedly taunted me and made numerous statements suggesting that I was going to be killed soon,” his Supreme Court papers say.

“I lived in constant fear and each time the interrogators came to take me from the holding cells I would fear that this was my last day on earth.” The chilling account includes shocking deprivation at the hands of the army officers.

“Those guarding me would at times refuse to allow me to clean myself. At one time I spent 16 days without bathing or my cell being cleaned,” he says. “The conditions of my incarceration, the torture, taunts and psychological torment drove me to near insanity.”

Jaure says Lt Huni and Warrant Officer Muzira were not just cruel but sadistic. “Sometimes I would be tortured to the point of losing consciousness and all sense of spatial awareness,” he says.

He says he was systematically denied medical attention and says during his torture and detention he experienced “strange transformation” all over his body including spasms, discolouration of the nails due to electric shocks, extreme pain, dizziness, migraine headaches, insomnia and constant nightmares.

“The army and its personnel are subject to the dictates of the supreme law of the land and as such are not permitted to torture of treat anyone in a cruel or inhumane manner,” Jaure says.

“As a result of the wrongful and constitutionally unlawful conduct by the army and its officers I believe I suffered constitutional damages in the sum of $1 500 000.00. The sum is justified due to the torture and suffering I endured for 277 days at the hands of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd respondents and other army officers acting within the course and scope of their employment,” says the Supreme Court application.

The matter is yet to be set down for a hearing in the highest court in the land. Daily News