Home Office bid to throw out ex-CIO man fails
A JUDGE has refused the UK Home Office permission to appeal against a decision to grant asylum to a former Central Intelligence Organisation operative accused of “crimes against humanity”.
Phillip Machemedze, 47, admitted kidnapping dozens of opposition activists and carrying out acts of torture “too gruesome to recount”, but he was allowed to stay in Britain on May 4 after a judge said he would be killed in Zimbabwe.
The Home Office initially said it would not appeal, but appears to have changed its stance after criticism from media coverage.
But an attempt to launch an appeal suffered a setback on May 18 when a second judge said the Home Office’s arguments amounted to “no more than a disagreement” with the earlier decision to grant asylum to the former CIO agent and his wife, Febbie.
“It is true that Phillip Machemedze committed abhorrent acts and deserves no sympathy or favours. However, it is also true that we are bound by the European Convention on Human Rights and Articles 2 and 3 are absolute,” Senior Immigration Judge Robert Martin of the Immigration and Asylum Chamber’s First Tier Tribunal ruled in a judgement seen by New Zimbabwe.com.
He added: “Whatever is felt about Phillip Machemedze and his actions, the UK cannot return him to face death or inhuman or degrading treatment and for someone who has ‘spilled the beans’ to the UK authorities, the Immigration Judge was entitled to find that was what awaits him in Zimbabwe.”
Judge Martin also refused the Home Office permission to challenge the granting of refugee status to Febbie Machemedze, saying she would also be at risk of persecution.
“Neither the grounds (Home Office reasons for appeal) nor the determination (decision to grant asylum) disclose an arguable error of law,” the judge said finally.
Machemedze, who joined the CIO in 1996, arrived in the UK in 2000 after he had “enough of the torture” as one of President Robert Mugabe’s shock troops.
He admitted in court to smashing the jaw of an MDC activist with pliers before pulling out his tooth and stripping another naked and threatening to force him to rape his daughters if he did not give information.
He also confessed to electrocuting, slapping, beating and punching “to the point of being unconscious” a white farmer suspected of giving money to the MDC, and to “putting salt into the wounds” of a female MDC member who was imprisoned in an underground cell before being stripped naked and whipped.
But he claims he tried to leave the CIO and was supplying information to the MDC. He said his wife was tortured after he left the country, prompting her to leave behind their three children and follow him to the UK.
After the Home Office rejected his initial asylum claim, arguing that he had committed “crimes against humanity”, he appealed.
At a hearing in Newport, South Wales, where he lives, the judge who heard his appeal Mr Justice David Archer said he had committed “savage acts” of violence, but ruled sending him to Zimbabwe would be a death sentence.
“He has seen too much and said too much about his colleagues to be allowed to live,” the judge added.
Norwich-based Zimbabwean lawyer Masimba Mavaza, of IEI Solicitors, is representing Machemedze and his wife.