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Pro-Government Zimbabwe Newspaper Calls for End to Torture - 2003-01-28

Zimbabwe's pro-government Herald newspaper is calling for an end to the torture of government prisoners. This is the first time a government publication has admitted that some detainees are tortured by the police.

The Herald, which is partly owned by the government, said torture is "wrong and useless."

The newspaper said torture breaches a fundamental right guaranteed in Zimbabwe's constitution. It added that people in detention would admit to almost anything to stop the torture, making it an ineffective tool for finding the truth.

It also said torturers are degraded by abusing those in their custody.

Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai this week accused President Robert Mugabe's government of torturing detained opposition supporters, including a Member of Parliament. He said many of the party's leaders have been arrested, often on trumped-up charges, just so police could torture them.

Mr. Tsvangirai said his party, the Movement for Democratic Change, wants a retired judge to head a judicial inquiry into government-approved torture in Zimbabwe.

Opposition leaders report rising levels of repression, and last week the human-rights group Amnesty International said police are increasingly involved in persecuting President Mugabe's political enemies.

Zimbabwean police routinely dismiss torture allegations, but inspector Cecilia Churu says the police formed a special team of investigators last week to look into the allegations. She claimed most torture allegations are aimed at distracting attention from the serious charges detainees might face.

Mr. Tsvangirai said he has no faith in any probe carried out by police investigating themselves. He said the majority of those tortured were opposition supporters, and he claims more than 1,000 people have been tortured in the past year.

Journalists and human rights workers in Zimbabwe have seen many people emerge from detention with serious injuries.

In Washington, the U.S. government warned Americans in Zimbabwe they should consider leaving the country because of the deteriorating security situation. The warning was made against a background of increasing political unrest and widespread hunger.