High court orders Hopewell Chin’ono and Ngarivhume to get protection from abuse. The High Court has ordered the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services (ZPCS) to stop the persecution and abuse of investigative journalist Hopewell Chin’ono and opposition leader Jacob Ngarivhume.
ZPCS was told to ensure Chin’ono and Ngarivhume, who were arrested last month over the July 31 protests enjoy their basic rights while in detention at Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison.
Through their lawyers Beatrice Mtetwa, Gift Mtisi, Douglas Coltart, Roseyln hanzi and Moses Nkomo of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, the duo had filed an urgent chamber application seeking an order compelling ZPCS to stop subjecting them to inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment.
The ruling came amid charges that prosecutors were trying to block Chin’ono from giving evidence about the alleged abuse he was being subjected to while in prison.
Prosecutors blocked Chin’ono from testifying in a public court saying his testimony would jeopardise prison officers’ security.
But the defence argued that Chin’ono’s testimony would help the prison officers in complying with Covid-19 protocols as they were taking care of different prisoners, who at times might have contracted the coronavirus inside correctional facilities.
The state filed different applications that included one demanding the removal of Mtetwa as the lead counsel in a bid to stop her from representing Chin’ono.
The developments at the High Court are being seen as countermeasures to stop Chin’ono from testifying at the lower court since the issues of abuse have been dealt with by the higher court.
On Friday Mtetwa complained to Harare magistrate Ngoni Nduna that her client was taken to the High Court by prison services without communicating to his lawyers in a move meant to delay the matter in which Chin’ono was expected to testify.
Despite Chin’ono’s plea to have him transported to the Harare magistrates court, the prison officers refused him the chance to phone his lawyers and advise them that he was at the High Court.
In their application, which was argued before high Court Judge Justice Jester Charewa, Chin’ono and Ngarivhume said they were unlawfully deprived of several of their fundamental rights, including the use of personal protective equipment despite the rise in coronavirus infections.
Chin’ono and Ngarivhume also asked to be allowed to receive food from private sources or to provide for themselves.
Chin’ono and Ngarivhume told the court that they have a right to conditions of detention that were consistent with human dignity as enshrined in the constitution.
The duo said by denying them the right to food, personal protective equipment and warm clothing, ZPCS was deliberately placing their lives in danger.
Justice Charewa ordered ZPCS to allow Chin’ono and Ngarivhume access to their legal practitioners and to ensure that the privacy of their communication is respected and also to access medical practitioners of their choice in line with reasonable administrative measures.
The ZPCS has to allow the two “access to food in line with reasonable administrative measures, access to social visits, in line with reasonable administrative measures>chaosafrica