Today the International Commission Jurists called on the Zimbabwean authorities to allow for detained Member of Parliament, Joana Mamombe to be returned to hospital in order to for her to receive essential medical care.
On Thursday 22 April, MP Mamombe, who is a Member of the main opposition party Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) Alliance, was rushed to hospital from prison after complaining of serious illness. The following day, against a doctor’s advice that she remain under medical care at Parktown Hospital, prison officials forced her to leave by prison officials who returned her to prison. A video shared widely on social media shows an ailing and frustrated Mamombe, stating that she was in pain and would not leave the hospital as she just received injections.
“The Zimbabwean prison officials have abandoned their primary obligation to ensure the humane treatment of a person in its custody. They have failed Joana Mamombe in refusing to provide her access to medical care and treatment, and placed her life and well-being in jeopardy,” said Kaajal Ramjathan-Keogh, ICJ Africa director.
The ICJ has previously expressed concern about the lawfulness of Joana’s Mamombe arrest and detention (see background below).
The ICJ has been monitoring the situation around the “weaponization” of criminal law in Zimbabwe, as well as the treatment of remand detainees and convicted persons. In May 2020, Mamombe along with opposition activists Netsai Marova and Cecilia Chimbiri were arrested and detained for attending a protest during Covid-19 lockdown. They alleged that they were subsequently abducted from police custody by State agents, sexually assaulted, and forced to drink each other’s urine. They were missing for two days following this abduction before they were discovered on a roadside 90km away from Harare. They were subsequently arrested for allegedly having lied about their treatment in custody and for “faking” their abduction. Since May 2020, the three women have been arrested and detained several more times. Despite Mamombe appearing in court 129 times over the last 12 months, she has been repeatedly denied bail.
Under Article 50(d) of the Zimbabwean Constitution, any person who is detained, including a sentenced prisoner, has the right to receive medical treatment. This requirement is provided for under several international treaties to which Zimbabwe is a party, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – (Articles 6, 7 and 10), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (Article 12), the UN Convention against Torture (Article 16), and the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights. The revised UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoner (Mandela Rules) provides in Rule 27 that “All prisons shall ensure prompt access to medical attention in urgent cases. Prisoners who require specialized treatment or surgery shall be transferred to specialized institutions or to civil hospitals” and that “Clinical decisions may only be taken by the responsible health-care professionals and may not be overruled or ignored by non-medical prison staff.”
These rules were endorsed by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights in its Resolution on the Collaboration between the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and Partners on Promoting the revised United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners.
The ICJ has observed with concern ongoing violations of the right to health of prisoners and remand detainees by the Zimbabwean authorities. For instance, despite the risks that are posed by COVID-19 in prisons, detainees were not allowed to sanitize their prison cells or wear adequate PPE in prison.
Kaajal Ramjathan-Keogh, ICJ Africa Director, Kaajal.Keogh(a)icj.org
Tanveer Jeewa, Media and Legal Consultant, Tanveer.Jeewa(a)icj.orgPress releases