10 February 1999


Medical report details torture of two journalists

Incident details

Mark Chavunduka and Ray Choto



(MISA/IFEX) - The medical report following the examination of the two
formerly detained journalists from the "Standard" newspaper, Mark
Chavunduka and Ray Choto, has confirmed beyond doubt that the two were
tortured. With respect to Choto, the physician who examined him
concluded in his report: "I would say that there is no doubt in my mind
that this man was severely assaulted and tortured in no uncertain
terms." The physician reached a similar conclusion with respect to
Chavunduka, noting that he "was subjected to severe interrogation and
torture, electrocution, as well as severe beatings and all the other
forms of torture that I mentioned above."

**Updates IFEX alerts of 9 February, 8 February, 3 February, 29 January,
27 January, 25 January, 22 January, 21 January, 18 January, 15 January
and 13 January 1999**

The report, which was published in full in the "Financial Gazette", also
detailed the nature of the torture they had been subjected to. Among
others, both journalists were forced to role naked on grass and tarmac.
They were repeatedly physically assaulted on the head and in the face
using fists and claps as well as booted feet. At one time, the report
says, Choto's head was butted against the wall. Both journalists were
electrocuted, with Choto repeatedly electrocuted on the genitals. Both
journalists were also assaulted on both feet with wooden blocks, and on
their buttocks with planks.

Background Information

Chavunduka and Choto were held over a story in their paper on 10 January
alleging a coup plot in Zimbabwe. The government says there was no such
plot and has charged them with publishing a false story likely to cause
alarm and despondency. Chavunduka was arrested by the military on 12
January, and Choto was arrested by police on 19 January, and the handed
over to the military for interrogation. The Defence Minister has
continually denied the torture claims by the two journalists, branding
them lies.

Both men have been charged under the Law and Order Maintenance Act of
1960 for publishing false reports that were "likely to cause alarm, fear
or despondency to the public, or section thereof." The offence carries
with it a maximum prison sentence of seven years. They were released on
21 January on bail of Zim$10,000 (approx. US$258). They were not asked
to plead and were remanded to appear for trial on 22 February. They were
also instructed to surrender their travel documents.

On 22 January, the day after their release, police arrested the managing
director of "The Standard", Clive Wilson, and held him in jail for three
nights. Wilson was released unconditionally on 23 January after the
Attorney General refused to prosecute him for what he said was the
police's lack of evidence.

Speaking to reporters afterwards, Wilson said he was interrogated for
three and half hours concerning the sources of the contentious story
which appeared in "The Standard", but that he was not tortured in any

Meanwhile, "The Standard" newspaper reports that it is working to press
charges of contempt of court against several government officials,
including Defence Minister Moven Mahachi and his permanent secretary,
Job Whabira, for defying three High Court orders to free Chavunduka from
illegal detention by military police.

The paper's lawyer, Simon Bull said: "We are going to pursue the
contempt of court charges separately. We will serve the court papers
ordering the officials to be convicted. If they oppose us, then the
matter will be heard in an open court."

Recommended Action

Send appeals to authorities:

  • calling on Zimbabwean authorities to respect their citizens' right
    to freedom of expression, association and assembly
  • strongly protesting the use of torture by military interrogators
  • calling for an end to the harassment of media workers in Zimbabwe
  • calling for an immediate inquiry into the allegations of torture
    made by the two journalists and for those responsible to be brought to
  • calling for the dropping of charges against the two journalists
  • pointing out that the charges against the two journalists are in
    violation of the right to freedom of expression as contained in Article
    19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and
    Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights, of which
    Zimbabwe is a signatory

    Appeals To

    His Excellency President Robert Mugabe
    Office of the President
    Causeway, Harare
    Fax: +263 4 708 557

    Mr Moven Mahachi
    Zimbabwe Minister of Defence
    Fax: +263 4 796 762

    Please copy appeals to the source if possible.

  • Source

    Media Institute of Southern Africa
    21 Johann Albrecht Street
    Private Bag 13386
    misaalerts (@) gmail.com
    Fax:+264 61 248016

    More on this case

    "Standard" journalists' trial date set 15 March 2000 Tortured journalists' trial deferred 7 January 2000 Court clears minister of contempt charges; spares newspaper costs 15 March 1999 Court rules for journalists to seek medical treatment, state appeals 24 February 1999 IFJ condemns Zimbabwe for arrests and torture 12 February 1999 WAN condemns Zimbabwe press crackdown 11 February 1999 Medical report details torture of two journalists 10 February 1999 Human Rights Watch protests new crackdown on Zimbabwe's independent media 10 February 1999 RSF protests deteriorating press freedom situation 9 February 1999 Three more journalists arrested 8 February 1999 ARTICLE 19 to support journalists' legal bid 3 February 1999 Newspaper director released unconditionally; government promises to crack down on bad press against military 27 January 1999 Police blockade peaceful protest 27 January 1999 Newspaper's managing editor appears in court 27 January 1999 NDIMA protests detention of journalist 25 January 1999 Fears for newspaper director high 25 January 1999 Journalists sent for full medical check-up amid disclosure of torture ordeal; further attacks on journalists; protest held in Namibia 22 January 1999 Journalists released on bail 21 January 1999 Detained journalists appear in court 21 January 1999 MISA concerned for health and well-being of detained journalists 21 January 1999 Journalists tortured while in custody 21 January 1999 WAN protests continued illegal detention of journalist 21 January 1999 Zimbabwean defence ministry continues to detain journalist 18 January 1999 Journalist still detained 15 January 1999 WAN condemns Zimbabwe press crackdown 11 February 1998 WAN condemns Zimbabwe press crackdown 11 February 1998 WAN condemns Zimbabwe press crackdown 11 February 1998 WAN condemns Zimbabwe press crackdown 11 February 1998 Editor arrested 13 January 1999
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