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Government of Zimbabwe withdraws invitation
to UN Rapporteur on Torture at
the last minute


GENEVA (28 October 2009) —As previously announced, the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Manfred Nowak, was invited by the Government of Zimbabwe to conduct an official fact-finding mission, from 28 October to 4 November 2009.
 
Upon his arrival in Johannesburg, on transit to Harare, the Special Rapporteur was informed, that the mission had been postponed by the Government on 26 October 2009, stating that it “regrets to advise that due to the previously unanticipated Consultative process currently taking place in Harare involving the Government of National Unity and the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the Government of Zimbabwe will be unable to receive the Special Rapporteur on the proposed dates.”
 
The Special Rapporteur welcomes the SADC initiative and all efforts to resolve the political crisis in the country. He also understands that the SADC Consultative process might lead to certain changes in his meetings with Government officials foreseen during his mission and offered his cooperation and flexibility to the Government in this respect. He fails to be convinced, however, that the Consultative process on Thursday, 29 October should be a valid reason to cancel his eight-day mission at such a late stage.
 
Recent allegations that MDC supporters and human rights defenders have been arrested, harassed and intimidated during the past few days, highlight the urgency of objective fact-finding by an independent UN expert at this crucial stage. The Special Rapporteur therefore calls upon the Government of Zimbabwe to receive him in Harare and allow the mission to go ahead as planned.
 
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.