ZANU PF torture agent not immune from prosecution in the UK
By Alex Bell
A self confessed ZANU PF henchman, who has controversially received asylum
in the UK, will not be immune from prosecution abroad for the crimes he
The case of former CIO agent Phillip Machemedze is causing a stir in the UK,
where his asylum has been granted on the basis that he faces persecution if
he is deported back to Zimbabwe.
Machemedze has admitted that he “enjoyed” torturing Mugabe’s political foes
while working for the notorious CIO. Part of his confessions included
pulling teeth from MDC members, giving a white farmer electric shocks, and
even whipping a woman and then pouring salt on her wounds.
Despite this, a UK immigration court has granted Machemedze the right to
remain in the country, saying that he himself could face torture if he was
returned home, after turning his back on Robert Mugabe regime.
The situation has sparked anger in the UK and over the weekend dozens of
MDC-T activists demonstrated at Machemedze’s home in Bristol. On Saturday
MDC-T UK and Ireland chairman, Tonderai Samanyanga, led a group of party
members to protest outside Machemedze’s house. Some waved placards written
“Arrest him Now” and others said “Human Rights Abuser, Hague Waiting.”
Although Machemedze was not at home, Samanyanga said they met his neighbours
and other people in the community to press home their concerns.
UK citizens meanwhile are also up in arms, amid reports that Machemedze was
working, legally, as a care worker in a high profile hospital. Some readers
of the UK’s Sun newspaper, commenting on their website, said that the
situation was “a big joke,” and questioned if the UK is “becoming a doorway
for all those that commit atrocities throughout the world.” The hospital has
since fired Machemedze, and British authorities have revealed that they are
investigating whether he used false papers to get the job.
Some observers have also expressed concern that Machemedze will escape any
form of prosecution for his crimes, with the UK government being criticised
for harbouring a self confessed human rights abuser.
But a legal expert from a London based organisation, which helps torture
survivors seek justice, said on Tuesday that Machemedze is not immune from
prosecution. Kevin Laue from Redress, told SW Radio Africa that Machemedze
“can and should,” be investigated and face prosecution, regardless of his
Laue explained that the legal situation, regarding Machemedze’s asylum
claim, is clear and in line with international standards. He said that under
the United Nations (UN) Convention against Torture, to which the UK is a
signatory, “they have an obligation not to return anyone who faces being
“Torture is prohibited no matter what. You cannot torture torturers,” Laue
But he added: “If there is evidence to support what he has admitted to
doing, then there is clear legislation in the UK which would allow him to be
prosecuted for torture here.”
“If Zimbabweans want to see this man investigated then they must come
forward with any evidence.”
A legal precedent already stands for Machemedze’s prosecution in the UK. In
2005 a ‘warlord’ who confessed to gross human rights violations in
Afghanistan and then sought refuge in the UK, was found guilty of torture in
a UK court and sentenced to jail.
Faryadi Sarwar Zardad fled to Britain in 1998 on a fake passport to escape
the Taliban. He was convicted in 2005 of carrying out a “cruel and
merciless” campaign of torture and hostage-taking in his homeland. The
trial was the first of its kind under the UN torture convention, because he
was prosecuted in Britain even though, like Machemedze, he is not British
and the offences he committed were carried out in Afghanistan.
Political commentator and former MDC National Youth Coordinator, Sanderson
Makombe agreed that the focus now should be on seeking Machemedze’s
“If indeed he did what he has said to have done, then it would be a travesty
of justice if he is not held to account for his crimes,” Makombe said.
Makombe however expressed reservations about the truth of Machemedze’s
story, calling it ‘incredible’, and possibly also a fabrication. The
political commentator explained that for many weeks he has been in contact
with former MDC colleagues and other individuals, none of whom know about
the incidents that Machemedze has owned up to.
“I honestly don’t believe everything this man has admitted to, because by
now someone would have come forward with evidence,” Makombe said. “I feel
that this story was over dramatised and not very authentic.”