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ZANU PF torture agent not immune from prosecution in the UK

 SW Radio Africa 06 June 2019

A self confessed ZANU PF henchman, who has controversially received asylum in the UK, will not be immune from prosecution abroad for the crimes he allegedly committed. (764 Words) - By Alex Bell

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The case of former CIO agent Phillip Machemedze is causing a stir in the UK, where his asylum has been granted on the basis that he faces persecution if he is deported back to Zimbabwe.

Machemedze has admitted that he "enjoyed" torturing Mugabe's political foes while working for the notorious CIO. Part of his confessions included pulling teeth from MDC members, giving a white farmer electric shocks, and even whipping a woman and then pouring salt on her wounds.

Despite this, a UK immigration court has granted Machemedze the right to remain in the country, saying that he himself could face torture if he was returned home, after turning his back on Robert Mugabe regime.

The situation has sparked anger in the UK and over the weekend dozens of MDC-T activists demonstrated at Machemedze's home in Bristol. On Saturday MDC-T UK and Ireland chairman, Tonderai Samanyanga, led a group of party members to protest outside Machemedze's house. Some waved placards written "Arrest him Now" and others said "Human Rights Abuser, Hague Waiting." Although Machemedze was not at home, Samanyanga said they met his neighbours and other people in the community to press home their concerns.

UK citizens meanwhile are also up in arms, amid reports that Machemedze was working, legally, as a care worker in a high profile hospital. Some readers of the UK's Sun newspaper, commenting on their website, said that the situation was "a big joke," and questioned if the UK is "becoming a doorway for all those that commit atrocities throughout the world." The hospital has since fired Machemedze, and British authorities have revealed that they are investigating whether he used false papers to get the job.

Some observers have also expressed concern that Machemedze will escape any form of prosecution for his crimes, with the UK government being criticised for harbouring a self confessed human rights abuser.

But a legal expert from a London based organisation, which helps torture survivors seek justice, said on Tuesday that Machemedze is not immune from prosecution. Kevin Laue from Redress, told SW Radio Africa that Machemedze "can and should," be investigated and face prosecution, regardless of his asylum status.

Laue explained that the legal situation, regarding Machemedze's asylum claim, is clear and in line with international standards. He said that under the United Nations (UN) Convention against Torture, to which the UK is a signatory, "they have an obligation not to return anyone who faces being tortured."

"Torture is prohibited no matter what. You cannot torture torturers," Laue said.

But he added: "If there is evidence to support what he has admitted to doing, then there is clear legislation in the UK which would allow him to be prosecuted for torture here."

"If Zimbabweans want to see this man investigated then they must come forward with any evidence."

A legal precedent already stands for Machemedze's prosecution in the UK. In 2005 a 'warlord' who confessed to gross human rights violations in Afghanistan and then sought refuge in the UK, was found guilty of torture in a UK court and sentenced to jail.

Faryadi Sarwar Zardad fled to Britain in 1998 on a fake passport to escape the Taliban. He was convicted in 2005 of carrying out a "cruel and merciless" campaign of torture and hostage-taking in his homeland. The trial was the first of its kind under the UN torture convention, because he was prosecuted in Britain even though, like Machemedze, he is not British and the offences he committed were carried out in Afghanistan.

Political commentator and former MDC National Youth Coordinator, Sanderson Makombe agreed that the focus now should be on seeking Machemedze's prosecution.

"If indeed he did what he has said to have done, then it would be a travesty of justice if he is not held to account for his crimes," Makombe said.

Makombe however expressed reservations about the truth of Machemedze's story, calling it 'incredible', and possibly also a fabrication. The political commentator explained that for many weeks he has been in contact with former MDC colleagues and other individuals, none of whom know about the incidents that Machemedze has owned up to.

"I honestly don't believe everything this man has admitted to, because by now someone would have come forward with evidence," Makombe said. "I feel that this story was over dramatised and not very authentic."

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