THE Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZHLR) has raised concern over the ill-treatment of remanded journalist Hopewell Chin’ono and opposition politician Jacob Ngarivhume, who were last week taken to Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison as if they were convicted prisoners.
BY DESMOND CHINGARANDE
Officer-in-charge of Harare Remand Prison transferred Chin’ono and Ngarivhume to Chikurubi on Friday night without the knowledge of their lawyers and in contravention of section 140(6) Commissioner-General Standing Orders, ZLHR said in a statement.
The pair’s lawyers Roslyn Hanzi, Beatrice Mtetwa and Moses Nkomo were reportedly denied access to their clients by the prison officials acting on instructions from “above”.
“Chin’ono and Ngarivhume’s lawyers only came to know of the transfer of their clients on August 7 through an independent source, that the duo was strip-searched, shackled in leg irons and eventually moved at night to Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison from Harare Remand Prison. This transfer had not been formally communicated to their legal practitioners beforehand,” ZLHR wrote.
On visiting the pair at Chikurubi on Saturday, the lawyers were denied access to their clients, with prison officials insisting that they must be present during consultations.
“The prison officers advised the lawyers that they had direct orders not to allow lawyers to consult with clients if they could not hear the discussions and section 140(6) of the Commissioner-General Standing Orders Part VII Visits and Communications did not allow this,” the statement read.
“The Commissioner-General Standing Orders are in direct violation of section 50(5) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, which provides that any person who is detained, including a sentenced prisoner, has a right at their own expense, to consult in private with a legal practitioner of their choice and to be informed of this rights promptly,” ZLHR wrote.
The lawyers said Chin’ono and Ngarivhume were not provided with jerseys while in detention and the officers turned down a request to bring them warm clothing from outside.
Chin’ono and Ngarivhume were also denied food from outside “as the two do not eat sadza for medical reasons, but they were advised that the ZPCS [Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services] only serves sadza in prison”.
“The blatant and malicious stripping away of the two prisoners’ basic rights, including the right to give instructions to lawyers of their choice in private, is unconstitutional. The harsh treatment of the duo undermines the presumption of innocence,” ZLHR wrote.
“The ZLHR urges the ZPCS to uphold constitutional provisions which guarantee fundamental rights to arrested and detained persons, including Zimbabwe’s regional and international obligations on rights of detainees.”
ZPCS spokesperson Meya Khanyezi was not reachable for comment yesterday.