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
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
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
During all this period, he and his family received
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.