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Ministers in court over torture

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Four Cabinet ministers and a number of service chiefs will next week be hauled before the High Court on allegations of torture, unlawful detention and deprivation of liberty in a civil case in which a Norton man is demanding $1,2 million from the top government officials.
Mapfumo Garutsa claims his head was dipped into a bowl filled with water, and was repeatedly assaulted with a belt and open hands to force him to admit to allegations of bombing Manyame River Bridge and Manyame Railway Bridge.
The ministers and service chiefs have since denied the allegations saying Garutsa and other suspects were kept in safe houses and volunteered information.
Garutsa says in court documents that on November 30 2008 he was abducted and detained under very hostile circumstances in various holding cells for alleged acts of terror and sabotage.
He is claiming the money from government citing Home Affairs co-minister Kembo Mohadi and Giles Mutsekwa (former co-minister), Patrick Chinamasa (Justice Legal and Parliamentary Affairs) and Didymus Mutasa (former state security).
Garutsa is also claiming damages from police Commissioner General Augustine Chihuri, Paradzai Zimondi (Commissioner of Prisons), and Happyton Bonyongwe (Director General of the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO), Asher Walter Tapfumaneyi (Assistant Director of the CIO) and senior police officers identified as Senior Assistant Commissioner Nyathi, Chief Superintendent Makedenge, Detective Chief Inspector Mpofu, Chief Superintendent Magwenzi, Superintendent Joel Shasha Tenderere and Superintendent Regis Takaitei.
In court documents — in NewsDay’s possession — Garutsa is demanding $500 000 in damages for unlawful abduction, enforced disappearance, unlawful detention, unlawful arrest and unlawful deprivation of liberty.
He is demanding a further $100 000 for damages arising from alleged assault and $300 000 for damages arising from torture, pain, shock, suffering and psychological trauma and loss of amenities.
Garutsa says he also wants $300 000 for continual malicious prosecution and costs of the court action.
He claims he was abducted from his Norton home by state security agents — with the collusion of the police — and detained under hostile conditions that included torture and deprivation of basic requirements in their custody.
He alleges he was subjected to those conditions from November 30 to December 22 2008.
While in detention, Garutsa said security agents demanded to know his political affiliation and asked him to produce MDC membership cards.
The defendants justified their actions on the grounds that the country’s security was under threat from an alleged planned insurgency and therefore it was imperative to adopt necessary measures.
They argued the arrest and detention of Garutsa was “swift and discreet” as there was a list of at least 40 other insurgents or terrorists at large.
“Further it was known to the intelligence community that at that time the MDC had trained and deployed at least two hundred insurgents in every province and that at least one thousand five hundred insurgents were armed and waiting in Botswana,” the defendants said.
“The situation obtaining was very sensitive and had to be treated with the utmost caution and by a judicious exercise of tact.”
However, they denied ever assaulting Garutsa or subjecting him to any form of torture.
“They were all well kept in safe houses while investigations continued. These safe houses are not prisons but very decent and comfortable houses in low density areas in Harare,” the defendants said.
“None of the suspects were subjected to any pain. None of the suspects were held incommunicado. They were allowed interaction among themselves in some instances. They all had access to clean air, clean water, toilets, bathrooms and all necessary sanitation including sanitary wear for the women.”
The defendants claimed suspects who were HIV positive were attended to by doctors and were given medication and treated.
They claimed whatever information they got from the suspects was “volunteered freely and voluntarily through interviews which were held in comfortable environments”.
“The defendants will pray for the dismissal of the claim on the basis that the arrest was lawful, further on the basis that allegations of torture, assault, inhuman and degrading treatment are denied and plaintiffs are put to the strict thereof.”

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