Report : Subliminal terror? Human rights violations and torture in Zimbabwe during 2008.

Subliminal terror? Human rights violations and torture in Zimbabwe during 2008.

Although human rights violations have taken place in Zimbabwe over the past three decades, the major focus in this monograph will be upon the period 2000 to 2008, with special reference to 2008. It is evident from reports published over the years that there have been serious violations of human rights prior to this time, both during the Liberation War, and during the 1980s in Matabeleland and the Midlands, and, of course, neither of these two periods should be excluded from any process of accountability. Indeed, Zimbabweans have themselves already argued that there should be a full accounting for all human rights violations since the original occupation of the country in 19th century1. The kinds of accounting will obviously be very different for the various time periods: prior to 1965, it would seem that a Truth Commission process would be most appropriate, whilst, subsequent to this time, there have been strong arguments that a Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation Commission would be the appropriate mechanism.

However, the major reason for selecting the period from 2000 onwards is to reflect a number of developments. Firstly, the UN Convention Against Torture only came into force in 1984, whilst the Rome Statute for the International Criminal Court only became operative in 2002. Thus, as regards international jurisdiction, no case of torture prior to 1984 could be considered by an international court, and no case regarding crimes against humanity can be considered in respect of events prior to July 2002, although the UN Security Council could act on its own as it did in the cases of the Former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. Of course, there could be no international objection to Zimbabwe examining all previous human rights violations through the setting up of its own domestic tribunal. After all, domestic remedy is a considerable improvement over international remedy, and indeed international remedy is there mostly to provide for situations where domestic remedy is not possible, for whatever reason.

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