Panafrican News Agency

Zimbabwe human rights lawyers condemn ‘deplorable’ prison conditions

Harare, Zimbabwe (PANA) - Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) has condemned the increasingly deteriorating  state of affairs in Zimbabwe’s prisons.

In a statement on Tuesday, the ZLHR bemoaned that incarcerated inmates are being subjected to inhumane conditions and were not receiving any attention in that regard.

“Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) is appalled by the deplorable conditions obtaining at the country's prisons, which deprives prisoners of their inherent dignity and value as human beings.

"According to media reports, including accounts from detainees, who served jail time in prisons and some who have been or are currently represented by human rights, inmates have bemoaned the inhumane conditions obtaining in detention centers,” ZLHR, said in the statement.

Complaints that lawyers have noted include, but are not limited to poor sanitation, lack of clean and potable water, imbalanced diet, shortages of food, medicines, adequate clothing and overcrowding.

ZLHR condemned the worrying state of affairs in the country's prisons, saying that the lack of adequate nutritious food and the inhumane conditions in which prisoners are living exposes inmates to illnesses and psychological trauma.

ZLHR said it was also disturbed that at times some young offenders have been detained with adults.

It said that the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services should appreciate that juvenile detention was not in the best interests of the child. 

However, ZLHR applauded the pre-trial diversion (PTD) programme that had been introduced by the government of Zimbabwe to ensure all children that come into conflict with the law get equal access to justice.

PTD seeks to channel cases involving children from the formal criminal justice system to extra-judicial programmes premised on the general consensus that child offenders were often victims of harsh socioeconomic circumstances.

PTD was introduced in 2013 and realigned in December 2017 to the juvenile justice system in line with the United Nations standard minimum rules on the administration of juvenile cases.

“Notwithstanding the efforts that the prison authorities are putting into providing humane conditions for juvenile offenders, challenges such as poor basic services, sanitation facilities and poor nutrition are prevalent in prison facilities. In its interactions with detainees, ZLHR lawyers have been advised that prisoners were also being subjected to abuse in instances where prisoners engaging in hard labour outside their official obligatory labour hours,” ZLHR said.

“Prisoners need to be treated with respect due to their inherent dignity and value as human beings. It must always be remembered that they only lose their right to liberty when they are incarcerated.”

ZLHR welcomed pronouncements by Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs minister Ziyambi Ziyambi on proposals seeking to repeal the Prisons Act and enact a new Prisons Act, measures passed by cabinet in March.

The new Act will address concerns around the inadequacies of the existing legislation through incorporating international norms and standards relating to prisons administration as well as to align the laws to Zimbabwe's Constitution.

According to the Prison Report 2018, prepared by the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, topical issues found in Zimbabwe’s prisons included pretrial detention; prisoners’ dignity, cell conditions and sanitation; bedding; and adequate clothing.

Zimbabwe has 46 prisons that are now over congested with shortages on everything from food to uniforms, with the nearly 20,000 incarcerated inmates nationwide struggling to receive food.

-0- PANA TZ/AR 28May2019