Maltreatment of Client by Police (Zimbabwe)

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If, when the lawyer interviews his client in custody, he discovers that his client has been subjected to physical mistreatment in order to force him to confess, he should complain immediately about this to the Member in Charge of the police station and demand that his client be medically examined as soon as possible. If a medical examination is refused, the lawyer should either take the matter up with Police Headquarters or make an urgent application to the High Court for an order obliging the police to have the prisoner medically examined. It is particularly important that the client be medically examined as soon as possible where he has already made an incriminatory statement as a result of the alleged mistreatment.

There may be instances where, on information received, the lawyer believes that his client who is in custody is being physically maltreated but his access to his client is being obstructed by the authorities. Here the lawyer will have to make an urgent application to the High Court to order that he be allowed immediate access to his client in order to check upon his physical condition.

The civil court will award substantial damages where a person has been tortured whilst in police custody. In Karimazondo & Anor v Minister of Home Affairs 2001 (2) ZLR 363 (H) a police officer and his wife were arrested on allegations of murder. The wife was tortured while in custody and suffered long-lasting physical and psychological effects, full details of which were disclosed in medical reports. The court held that the circumstances of the case were exceedingly grave and warranted a substantial award of damages. The actions of the police were in flagrant and reckless disregard of the rights of the persons concerned. The fact of the detention in itself created a hardship. The brutality and callousness with which the assaults were perpetrated on the woman instilled in any right thinking person a sense of horror and shock. The unlawful and inhumane treatment to which P1 was subjected to was totally unnecessary, vindictive and malicious. The court would make an award which in money terms expressed its disapproval of the seriousness, brutality and humiliating effect of such treatment. The decline in the value of money in recent years would also be taken into account.

In the case of Reza & Anor HH-02-04 the court strongly condemned the practice of torture by police officers. The two police officers had tortured a criminal suspect by beating him on the soles of his feet. The officers were convicted of assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm. The court stated that the torture inflicted by the police officers called for severe censure in terms of punishment.


See Zimbabwe Criminal Defense Manual