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Zimbabwe: first visit by a UN Rapporteur scheduled for end October

GENEVA (16 October 2009) —The UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Manfred Nowak, has been invited by the Government of Zimbabwe to visit the country from 28 October to 4 November 2009. It is the first time ever that the Zimbabwean authorities have extended such an invitation to a Human Rights Council independent expert.

"This mission is a positive sign of the Government of Zimbabwe’s willingness to engage with the UN Human Rights System and permit open and unfettered access to places of detention," Nowak said.

As part of his mission to gather first-hand information about torture and ill-treatment in the country, the independent expert will meet with Government officials, national human rights institutions, civil society members and representatives of United Nations agencies and other international organizations. He will also visit places where persons are deprived of their liberty, including prisons and police stations.

"I see this visit as a real opportunity to engage in dialogue with both the State and civil society, as Zimbabwe builds its democratic institutions," said Nowak.

At the end of the mission, following a briefing with Zimbabwean officials, the Special Rapporteur will hold a press conference to share his preliminary findings with representatives of the media.

Based on the information obtained during the visit, Nowak will present a report containing his conclusions and recommendations to the Human Rights Council.

Manfred Nowak, appointed Special Rapporteur on 1 December 2004 by the UN Commission on Human Rights, is independent from any government and serves in his individual capacity. He has previously served as member of the Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances, the UN expert on missing persons in the former Yugoslavia, the UN expert on legal questions on enforced disappearances, and as a judge at the Human Rights Chamber for Bosnia and Herzegovina. Nowak is Professor of Constitutional Law and Human Rights at the University of Vienna, and Director of the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute of Human Rights.