HUMAN rights lawyers have called on the police to immediately comply with the Constitutional Court ruling handed down last week where the law enforcement agents were ordered to upgrade their holding cells.
The order came following an application by Women of Zimbabwe Arise (Woza) leader Jenni Williams over the inhuman conditions in the police holding cells. In the application, the Woza leader cited lack of running water, bed linen and the unhygienic toilets in most cells.
In a joint statement yesterday, both Woza and the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights said: “Immediate compliance with the court ruling is a constitutional imperative.
“Any delays in according detained persons full rights as enunciated in the judgment cannot be excused and would constitute a gross subversion of the rule of law and fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution.
“Zimbabwean authorities must realise that a detainee, whilst losing freedom, does not lose protection of presumption of innocence and so their other rights must be respected to the letter.”
The two organisations said it was incumbent on the State and all its agencies to ensure that detained persons were accorded the dignity and entitlements as pronounced by the Constitutional Court.
The Constitutional Court last Thursday declared that four Woza leaders’ rights had been violated and they had been discriminated against when they were arrested and detained in “filthy detention cells” at Harare Central Police Station four years ago.
The four – Williams, Magodonga Mahlangu, Clara Manjengwa and Celina Madukani – were arrested on April 15 2010 during a demonstration against “appalling” service delivery from power utility Zesa.
The Woza leaders petitioned the Supreme Court sitting as a Constitutional Court in 2011 seeking an order compelling the government to ensure that holding cells at Harare Central Police Station met basic hygienic conditions.
The court ordered the co-Ministers of Home Affairs and Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri to take all necessary steps and measures within their power to ensure that the holding cells at Harare Central Police Station should have clean and salubrious flushing toilets with toilet paper and a washing bowl.
The court also said the flushing toilets were to be cordoned off from the main cell to ensure privacy, have a good standard of hygiene, and every person detained in police custody overnight should be furnished with a clean mattress and adequate blankets.
It also ordered adequate bathing facilities to be provided for all persons detained in custody overnight and all women detained in police custody to be allowed to keep their undergarments, including brassieres, and to wear suitable footwear.