The story of Upenyu Hove, detailed in several news reports today, illustrates one of the real dilemmas of our world. Upenyu is from Zimbabwe but fled the country with his wife in 2002. His five year old daughter was born in Northern Ireland. Upenyu Hove believes that he is in danger of torture and execution if he is returned to Zimbabwe but, unfortunately his request for asylum has been refused. Given the international reputation of Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe’s president and dictator, who can be sure that if Upenyu is returned he will be safe? All the indications are that the mere fact of his leaving the country at all and applying for asylum will probably be enough to ensure a bloody and painful end for Upenyu and his family.
Now… here lies the dilemma. I know that Europe feels it must guard against economic refugees and I know that many feel our little island may well sink if too many more are permitted to make a permanent home here. But I really worry about sending anybody back to a country like Zimbabwe at the moment. I think we need to be sure folk are safe from harm if they are to be repatriated.
(note: this photo was taken by a group of doctors, Physicians for Human Rights (Denmark), visiting Zimbabee in 2002. It forms part of the evidence of torture they produced after interviewing 14 people. The 49 year old man in the picture reported being beaten with stripped electric cable Reported on the BMJ website.)
I especially worry about sending anybody to a country of which on June 27th 2007 Amnesty International said:-
“At least 30 political detainees arrested on 28 March 2007, including MDC Member of Parliament Paul Madzore and MDC Director of Elections Dennis Murira, spent over two months in custody awaiting trial, and 18 have since had the charges dropped.
The detainees’ lawyers, Alec Muchadehama and Andrew Makoni, were also arrested outside the High Court on 4 May 2007 after submitting court papers on behalf of Amos Musekiwa, one of the political detainees. The lawyers were only released on bail on 7 May.
On 8 May police in Harare beat lawyers who had gathered outside the High Court to protest the unlawful arrest of Alec Muchadehama and Andrew Makoni. Police forced some of the lawyers including Beatrice Mtetwa, President of the Zimbabwe Law Society, into a police truck before driving to a secluded area and reportedly beating them. They were then released.
The Zimbabwean government has justified arbitrary arrest, detention, torture and ill-treatment as a response to attacks on police by alleged opposition supporters. As with all alleged criminal acts, we urge the government of Zimbabwe to immediately and impartially investigate these attacks, respecting the rights of the suspected perpetrators, including the right to a fair trial. However, incidents of violence by protestors by no means justify excessive use of force, torture or ill-treatment by the police.
We are also concerned that two years after an estimated 700,000 people lost their home or livelihood or both when the government embarked on a programme of mass forced evictions codenamed Operation Murambatsvina (Restore Order), the government has failed to provide an effective remedy to the victims. Most of the victims are still in urgent need of humanitarian assistance. The SADC initiative should not forget these victims of human rights violations.
These human rights concerns have been well documented, including in the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights’ report of its 2002 fact-finding mission to Zimbabwe. However, the government of Zimbabwe has failed to implement key recommendations contained in the African Commission’s report and its resolution adopted at the 38th Ordinary Session in November 2005. “
Clearly Mugabe’s reign of terror has been going on for some time . Amnesty International, with corroboration from the Zimbabwe High Court, have evidence that in 1999 Mugabe condoned the torture of two black journalists, Ray Choto and Mark Chavunduka of The Standard newspaper in Harare:
“Military interrogators beat both men all over their bodies with fists, wooden planks and rubber sticks, particularly on the soles of their feet, and gave them electric shocks all over the body, including the genitals. The men were also subjected to ‘the submarine’ – having their heads wrapped in plastic bags and submerged in a water tank until they suffocated”.
Source:Amnesty International news release, 21 January 1999.
Sadly Mark Chavunduka has since died from illness attributed to the torture he went through.
Now… I’m sure lots of people reading this will just flick on – it’s a long piece to be bothered reading (!) – but, just before you go can I just make one point?
I’m no expert on foreign policy, no campaigner for human rights and no great stakes in getting off me ass but…… I’d rather not be a party to sending Upenyu Hove, his wife and five year old child back to Zimbabwe just yet. Let’s just wait a while until Robert Mugabe is removed from power, shall we? I mean… surely we can find some excuse to allow this family to remain until that happens.
I, for one, don’t want to be responsible for Upenyu ending up hacked to pieces in some dusty ditch just because we couldn’t find the spark of humanity in our system to allow us to say,
“Park yourself there for a while, mucker, have a cup of tea or something. We’ll see what can be done before your plane ticket is purchased.”
And then we could just have the humanity to just forget to purchase that family ticket until Mugabe’s bloodthirsty regime is consigned to history.