Some people want to push for war crimes trials, and others want a South African style of Truth and Reconciliation Commission TRC to come to Zimbabwe
By Tendai Mazenge
Zimbabwe is burning and Zanu-PF has failed dismally. They have no solution to the economic problems people are facing. They have resorted to their old ways of doing things ie intimidation, torture and police brutality.
Traffic officers are now the new revenue collecting centre for the government. Is this allowed by our constitution? No.Then why does Zanu-PF disrespects the supreme law of the country?
I would like to talk about the police and military who are being sent by their bosses to brutalise the masses in the name of maintaining law and order.
Military law has long since recognized that following orders is a legitimate defence, but not if an order was illegal or if a person of ordinary sense and understanding would have known it was illegal.
The worst mass murderers of recent times have gone unpunished and the guilty walk among us.What shall we do? In Zimbabwe the perpetrators are never pursued because they are protected by the evil regime called Zanu-PF. Europe, Australia and the United States have laws that allow NAZI war criminals to be arrested more than 60 years after the crimes have been committed.
Dangerous place for tyrants
Those responsible for massacres in East Timor, Rwanda and Sierra Leone have already been jailed and in this new millennium, the world has become a dangerous place for tyrants.
As a condition of stepping down some rulers were granted immunity from prosecution. Many opposition members have been tortured and some murdered by Zanu-PF thugs and war veterans, but what about the lives they have lost., the pain, the need to flee their homes.
Does all that have a price? And if so, who should pay? I want justice to prevail.
Some people want to push for war crimes trials and others want a South African style of Truth and Reconciliation Commission TRC, and a minority hold equally valid view that a new government needs to draw a line and move on because dragging up the past will only hold back the future and delay the healing that is so vital to national progress.
But the circle is of one mind.
They all want justice and would be willing to aid the process by testifying against their tormentors. A frightening number, especially men are set to take revenge unless and in a few cases, even if the state is willing to act, not just against those who committed the crime but also the officers and ministers and even the President who sanctioned it, or at best, did nothing to stop the Madness.
So, where is the problem
So, where is the problem? Hold some trials, punish the guilty, free the innocent people or, those whose cases don’t add up and move on. But life isn’t rarely that simple. People don’t easily forget such kind of atrocities. There are many legal, moral and practical issues that need to be considered:
#Does what happened in Zimbabwe, such as torture, police brutality and murder qualify under the accepted definition of crimes against humanity?
#When would the trials or Truth Commission take place? Arrests too soon after a democratic change could spark a coup by security agents fearing prosecution. Perhaps an amnesty would be better.
#What time frame would be covered? From 2000 or everything since 1980?
#Should amnesty be granted to those willing to testify against their comrades?
#Who would decide guilt or innocence, Judges or special commissioners.
#In the case of commissioners, how would you select the a panel that wasn’t loaded in favour of one side?
#What steps could be taken to minimise the personal acts of revenge?
#Would it be possible to try thousands of suspects or should only those involved in the most serious crimes be brought to book.?
#What of those who skipped the country? Should international warrants be issued?
#On the subject of appeals, should those found guilty be free to contest the verdict?
#Should the defence “I was only following orders “be accepted and if so on what grounds?
#Who would pay for the research, translation, arrests, detention and the assembling of witnesses and the recruitment of a tribunal, secretaries, typists and a legion of defence lawyers to represent each of the accused. And if the victims are to be compensated, who pays for that?
#Finally, would the current government be willing to make the process all inclusive. Victor’s justice can spark new resentment, so those in MDC who murdered members of Zanu-PF or killed CIO officers spying on exiles in South Africa and other countries would also need to be tried or brought before the commission.
Where amnesties don’t count
It is a very big task but can it be done? YES. The international treaties on crimes against humanity make it clear that torture, forced exile, political murder and genocide are matters of global justice and in theory, perpetrators can be arrested anywhere in the world, even if they left the country where the offence took place.
And because these crimes are, by definition, universal, amnesties don’t count because they only apply to the country that granted them. One solution will be to cover the Gukurahundi issue and more recent violence because there is plenty of evidence and the loss suffered by victims is still current.
I suggest that panels from the commissioners should be drawn from Human rights groups, the law, religious leaders, trade unions, universities and NGOs. Other aspects like appeals, witness protection programmes and sheer magnitude of scheme await the attention of a new government, which will have plenty of models to draw on.
There is need to convince victims that justice is coming and warn them against acts of retribution. But how do you defend such gruesome murders, torture and destruction? In Zimbabwe it will be hard for a soldier or policeman to challenge an order from a superior without the risk of heavy punishment.
How to move forward
For this reason, a claim of following orders would have to be taken into account, not in determining guilt but in passing sentence and not in the case of senior officers or government ministers who were running the show. I believe for the country to move forward there should be:
#RESTITUTION -giving back what Was lost by criminal act. The accused maybe ordered to rebuild a house they burnt down or help those they forced into exile to reestablish themselves in Zimbabwe. The state may also be called to hand back property and restore citizenship.
#COMPENSATION – Usually in the form of cash, but may include payment for loss of education or unemployment and recognition of mental and physical harm.
#REHABILITATION -Medical and psychological care and access to legal and social help.
SATISFACTION – Search for missing persons, reburial of dead in accordance with their culture. Justice must seen to be done.
I believe if we elect a democratic government into power, the above could be implemented and it will bring closure to the already suffering people of Zimbabwe who lost a lot at the hands of this tyrannical government of Zanu-PF. The more we work together the better chances we have of making another Zimbabwe possible.
Tendai Mazenge is in MDC Policy and Research department in Harare. The views expressed do not represent the editorial policy of the Sunday Express E-edition
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