Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum from the Medical Foundation

  1.  The Medical Foundation exists to enable survivors of torture and organised violence to engage in a healing process to assert their own human dignity and worth. We advocate respect for human rights and are concerned for the health and well being of survivors of torture and their families. We provide medical and social care, practical assistance, and psychological and physical therapy. Documentation of evidence of physical and psychological torture may be carried out by doctors at the Medical Foundation as part of the torture survivor's asylum application and because it also has a psychological benefit for patients who, perhaps for the first time, are able to tell their histories of torture to someone willing to listen sympathetically.

  2.  The Medical Foundation's concerns about human rights violations in Zimbabwe are not new but have been put into sharp focus by events in that country in more recent years. It is our intention to document what we consider to be, and evidence indicates is, the systematic use of torture and ill treatment to silence and repress opposition to the ruling party.

  3.  We attach seven case studies prepared by one of our researchers, made anonymous to the extent that names, place names, job descriptions and dates etc have been removed or made less specific to protect the identity of the individual concerned. These case studies are drawn from recent referrals to the Medical Foundation. It should be noted that these case studies are not drawn from medico-legal reports but from initial interviews made post-referral. Medico-legal reports are either in the process of being prepared or will be prepared in due course in respect of all these individuals.

  4.  While this is only a small sample, it is our opinion that it is indicative of the nature and ferocity of the torture, inhuman and degrading treatment being routinely applied to many of Zimbabwe's citizens. We hesitate to speculate on the purpose of this barbaric behaviour but are forced to conclude that it is intended to humiliate the individuals concerned and as a dire warning to others.

  5.  The Committee's attention is drawn to the report "The Presidential Election: 44 days to go" dated 24 January 2002 prepared by our colleagues Physicians for Human Rights, Denmark which substantially corroborates our own early findings.

  6.  If we may be of any further assistance to the Committee please do not hesitate to contact the writer.


1.  Arrived in UK: Feb 2002

Interviewed at MF: 8 Mar 2002

  Ms A was a teacher in Zimbabwe. She is in her forties, and is a mother.

  A has been a supporter of Zimbabwe's main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), since 1999, drawn towards the fringes of political life by her job and by her interest in helping Zimbabwean women adapt to the changes in African society since independence. Towards the end of January 2002 she called a meeting in her school to tell parents about the rights of their children under the international conventions to which Zimbabwe is a signatory. After it was over she joined a friend and the two women attended an MDC rally in the Bulawayo White City Stadium. They arrived rather late to find that rioting had broken out and that people were fighting in the streets outside the stadium; they watched for a few minutes and then hurried home.

  That night, around midnight, there was a knock on her door. A group of plain-clothes policemen stood outside. They arrested A and took her to the nearest police station where she was accused of having been an instigator of the Bulawayo riot. Frightened of the consequences, she denied even being an MDC supporter. The police told her that they knew better and that they had heard that she had been preaching human rights at her school.

  A was told to undress, take off her bra and pants, and put her dress back on. She was led to a bin filled to the top with cold water and asked again whether she was an MDC supporter. When she again said no, her head was plunged into the water. This went on until she admitted the truth. A was then put back to back with another woman and questioned about the riot. When she could give them no information the women's heads were banged hard together until eventually A fainted. Towards evening, some 20 hours later, she was released.

  A reached home, exhausted, wet, and very shaken to find her husband furious that she was endangering the family by her political interests. She also found a message from one of the parents at her school, a police officer, warning her that she was now in some trouble. A decided to hide with friends in the countryside. Three days later, she returned home, believing that the danger had passed. But the next night, the police returned and took her to the police station. This time they accused her of calling a meeting to recruit members for the MDC. She was kicked all over her body. Once again, she was told to remove her underclothes. This time she was told to sit on the floor and place her bare feet on a low table. The policemen lit cigarettes and began to burn the soles of her feet, ordering her to identify fellow troublemakers. Eventually, when she said nothing, they left her. Later in the night, a policeman she knew from the school appeared, and freed her.

  She went home, packed, and hid once again in the countryside. Her husband raised the money for a plane ticket to Britain and she flew to London in early February 2002 and asked for asylum. She has no news of her family, since she fears that if she contacts them she will put them in danger.

  A has scars left by the torture in January: three dark circles on each foot, distinct reddish welts the size of a ten pence coin along the side and on the soles, made by cigarette burns; bruises and discoloured patches on her shins and legs from kicks; a livid mark under the nail of her right thumb where her hand was stamped on. She suffers from repeated nightmares and can only sleep with pills; often, she wakes screaming. She has pains in her legs, her back and in her head. She is haunted by memories of having her head submerged, and by the humiliation she felt, stumbling like a tramp through the streets without her underclothes, her hair wet and bedraggled from the water, her dress hanging loosely and shapelessly about her.

  This is not A's first experience of persecution. She is a veteran of Zimbabwe's years of political intimidation and ruling-party violence. Her troubles with President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party started not long after independence in 1980. In 1982, she was living in Matabeleland when President Mugabe sent the Fifth Brigade to crush "dissidents" among the local Ndebele people whom he accused of planning an insurgency campaign against the Shona dominated ZANU-PF. On and off for many months A and a number of her friends were kept prisoner in a Fifth Brigade camp to act as servants for the soldiers. Some of them escaped to nearby Botswana by swimming across a river, but A had never learnt to swim. For sport, the soldiers forced their prisoners to fight against each other. Those who refused had their limbs chopped off, one by one, or were buried alive in pits and fires lit on top of them. A says that she was lucky: she was made to fight only with other young women, and only the men were obliged to fight to the death.

  She bears scars from this time as well: a line along her right palm, where she was beaten with sticks, and a mark along her right arm from broken glass after a soldier forced her to break a window with her arm.

2.  Arrived in UK: Feb 2002

Interviewed at MF: 1 Mar 2002

  Mr B is a civil servant from Harare in his mid thirties, a card-carrying member of the MDC. He is married with young children, who are in Zimbabwe, as are his parents. In September 2001 he received a letter signed by the war veterans informing him that he was on a police hit list. Ten days later a second letter came; this one said that they would "deal with him". When he left his local police station, where he had been told to report these threats, he realised that he was being followed. During the next few days he noted that he was still followed. He decided therefore to come to Britain for a holiday in November, hoping that a spell abroad would take the pressure off him. But the British immigration officials at Heathrow decided that he intended to stay in the UK illegally and put him back on to a plane for Zimbabwe.

  Within a few days he was stopped by the police on his way home from work and asked why he had travelled abroad. Four men took him to a "private spot" and questioned him. He was then released. He had not been hurt.

  Ten days after that, he was walking with friends along a street in Harare when he was seized, pushed into a car with darkened windows. There were four men, and he was blindfolded and taken to what he believes was a room at the top of one of Harare's government buildings. He was questioned again about coming to London. He was then accused of membership of the MDC; he did not deny it. He was told to undress. The room contained a bath, and the men filled it with cold water. The police who were present added ice. B was placed in the bath and the interrogation began: he was asked questions about his movements, about the MDC, about other members. He was made to lie down. When they were not satisfied with his answers, the police held his head under water. More ice was added. He was submerged "three or four times". Finally, shivering and vomiting, he was taken out of the bath and dressed. The men drove him to the highway. He had trouble breathing. The police had told him that they would return for him "in two weeks". He went home for one night, then moved to a friend's house where he stayed until money was raised for a plane ticket to the UK. He arrived in Britain and requested asylum. Since the torture, he suffers from headaches, stomach aches, diarrhoea, and his eyes hurt. He has times when he cannot breathe and he is terrified of suffocating. He is extremely worried about his family because he has heard that his wife has been threatened.

3.  Arrived in UK: Jan 2002

Interviewed at MF: 22 Feb 2002

  Mr C, who is a tradesman, has been held on three separate occasions by ZANU-PF supporters. Though he is not an MDC member, he has always refused to join President Mugabe's party. He, too, fled to Britain in the autumn of 2001 after repeated harassment, but returned to Zimbabwe after his application for asylum was refused.

  C's troubles began in May 2000, during debates about a draft constitution for Zimbabwe; C was among the people who opposed President Mugabe's proposals. He was arrested in Bulawayo and taken to a police station where he was questioned, held for six hours, and released.

  In August 2000, he attended a demonstration in Harare by members of the MDC. He was beaten up by ZANU-PF supporters and taken to Harare central police station. He was held for two to three hours and released with a warning.

  In May 2001, he attended a by-election and during clashes between ZANU-PF supporters and the MDC, he was beaten up.

  During all this period, he and his family received many threats.

  In the summer of 2001, he decided that he was no longer safe. He flew to London, arriving in mid July, and asked for asylum. It was refused. On appeal, he was again turned down. In October, still in Britain, he heard from Zimbabwe that he was no longer being sought by the police. He decided to go home, reaching Zimbabwe in late December 2001.

  He returned to his home town. In the first week of January 2002 two people from ZANU-PF came to his house and asked him to join the party. He refused. That same evening they returned, at 7 pm. There were three men. They dragged him into a truck, beating him, and took him to a farm where a torture room had been prepared. He was tied, spread-eagled, to a pole and questioned about his time abroad. He was accused of having gone to Uganda to be trained by the MDC. He was punched, beaten with leather straps, left hanging from the pole. This went on for two to three hours. He was bruised and bleeding from cuts and grazes on his arms. Later, barely able to stand, he was released, but without his shoes, so that he had to walk back to his home, many hours on rough tracks, barefoot. Before letting him go they warned him they would come back for him. He got home at about 5 am. His father took him to hospital, where they were told that he could receive no medical treatment without a police statement. They went to the police station, but the police refused to accompany them back to the farm. However they gave him a statement and the hospital treated him for chest pains, bruises and a very bad headache. Five days later, ZANU-PF people came looking for him again. The gate had been locked, and they left. He now went to hide in a village where members of his family lived while his father found money for a new ticket for the UK.

  C has long thin scars all over the insides of his arm from the beatings; he is in constant pain from his shoulders, where he was tied to the poles, and can now hold one arm only in a certain position; he suffers from bad headaches and terrible nightmares. He can sleep only fitfully.

4.  Arrived in UK: Dec 2001

Interviewed at MF: 8 Feb 2002

  Mr D is a man in his early twenties who was in employment in Zimbabwe and whose father was an MDC member. In late May 2001 Mr D's family went to a funeral in a town not far from their home. They were stopped and searched by members of ZANU-PF. On their way home war veterans at a roadblock stopped them; they were beaten and blindfolded and taken to a camp by men carrying crowbars, axes and guns. In the camp they found other MDC members. It was a ZANU-PF gathering, with various ZANU-PF members of parliament, and the chairman told the war veterans to do what they wished with the prisoners. If they were killed, that would be fine. Over the next 10 days, D's mother was repeatedly raped; his father was taken away; he himself had his testicles slashed and salt rubbed into the wound. He was ordered to dig a grave large enough for himself and his father.

  On the tenth night, the war veterans held a party and got very drunk. D managed to escape. He went to the police, reported what had happened and asked for help in finding his parents. They told him that he was making his story up. Two days later, the veterans came looking for him. There were seven men. He ran to a neighbour's house, and then to his uncle's house, and hid. The veterans came after him, broke up the house, arrested his uncle and aunt, burnt their car and beat up his cousin. D, who again escaped, went into hiding for several months. When he believed they were no longer looking for him he went to his grandmother's house. But the veterans were waiting for him. This time D was caught, taken to a camp run by the security police (known as the CIO), accused of being involved in the killing of a ZANU-PF member, beaten on the back with a crowbar, starved and then fed on faeces, urine and semen, and had his head submerged repeatedly in water. He was finally able to escape after bribing his guards. The first CIO officers took the money but refused to let him go, and took him to a farm run by veterans. He now offered his new CIO guards a bribe and this time he was taken to a bank, handed over the money and was allowed to escape, having cleared out his bank account. Though he was followed, he found an agent, raised some money and managed to board a plane for the UK.

  There is no news of his parents or his uncle and aunt; his sister is under virtual house arrest.

  He has told the Medical Foundation that he has severe pains in his lower back from being hit with a crowbar, and that he finds it extremely hard to swallow food, particularly of any colour or consistency that reminds him of faeces and semen, and that he feels dizzy and sick much of the time. He lives on black tea and fruit. He is haunted by memories. He cannot sleep.

5.  Arrived in UK: Jan 2002

Interviewed at MF: 8 Feb 2002

  E is in his early twenties and works in the tourist industry. In January 2001 he became a member of the MDC youth wing. In June 2001, at the time of the elections, he went to work for one of the MDC candidates. When he was found selling MDC literature, ZANU-PF supporters beat him up. When he tried to run away, he fell and injured his arm. A few days later, he was caught by some ZANU-PF men, tied to a tree, and had chilli powder put into his eyes. For a while he was blinded. He was then released with a warning. In August, he was caught again. This time he was taken to a ZANU-PF training camp.

  Whenever he failed to obey an order he was beaten. One day he was "forced to circumcise himself". He was held for four months. In December 2001, he was sent, with other young men being held in the training camp, to a demonstration of MDC supporters, with orders to stir up trouble. During the confusion, he managed to escape from the guards. He went to relations, who contacted the local MDC. His family helped him to raise money for a ticket to the UK.

6.  Arrived in UK: Jan 2002

Interviewed at MF: 15 Feb 2002

  F had a white-collar job in Zimbabwe. In early June 2001, he was stopped at a military roadblock during anti-inflation demonstrations, and ordered to clear the streets. He was hit by sticks that fractured his left hand. His head was cut by an iron bar. He reported the injuries to the police and to a human rights group working in Zimbabwe. After this, he was followed and persecuted by the CIO. His family was harassed. War veterans smashed up his family business. F's father was detained, beaten, and the title deeds of his land confiscated. F himself was detained on four different occasions, taken to the police station and beaten. His brothers were beaten up. The whole family went into hiding. Finally, his parents left for Canada, where they have been given asylum. F finds it very hard to sleep. He has constant pains along the right side of his body and in his back.

7.  Arrived in UK: Dec 2001

Interviewed at MF: 1 Feb 2002

  G was self-employed. He became a member of the MDC in February 2000, and was responsible for organising the youth wing. In June 2000 he took a delivery of MDC T-shirts to distribute. Seeing a group of people sitting together he went to talk to them about the MDC, not realising that there were several war veterans among them. Three days later, while staying in his mother's village nearby, three CIO officers came to arrest him. They also questioned his father. He was released and returned to his own home.

  In mid June 2000 CIO officers tracked him down to a beer club. They took him to the central police station. Three plain-clothes men interrogated him. They took him back to his own home, where they found MDC membership cards belonging to his wife and mother-in-law and MDC T-shirts. They took him back to the "KAPS" building (a secret CIO building). For the next ten days he was tortured: he was beaten, kicked, given electric shocks and suffocated. They put plastic bags over his head and went on beating him. They connected his genitals to the electricity with jump leads, and he passed out. They threatened to kill him if he did not tell them everything he knew about the MDC. He was then left in a cell with others for about a week. They came back for him and took him to the house of another presumed MDC organiser, who was not at home. G was returned to the KAPS building and again beaten, with the butts of rifles and batons. A gash opened on his foot. He was kept handcuffed, so that he could not defend himself. They forced him to sit on a specially designed stool, with his arms pulled tightly back. His head was covered with a plastic bag, and closed around the neck. There were five men in the room. They poured water over him and threatened to switch on the electricity. He was held until the second week in November, and tortured and beaten approximately every other day.

  When they released him, they told him that he was to report every day to the police station. On the morning of a day in mid December 2001 G signed in, took a bus to Harare and next day caught a plane for London. His mother-in-law paid for his ticket.

  G is covered in scars. He has a thin inch long line along the right side of his foot, many small scars on his legs and upper body, scars on both wrists from handcuffs, and a scar across his right elbow. If touched, his right leg tingles and he has pains in his right foot. He suffers from constant headaches and cannot tolerate bright light. He finds it hard both to eat and sleep and has lost a great deal of weight.

Medical Foundation

May 2002

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