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Australia Urged: Arrest Zimbabwe's
President as a Torturer

Compiled by GayToday

London, England--Australian Attorney-General, Daryl Williams, is being advised that he has a legal obligation, under Australian law, to arrest President Mugabe of Zimbabwe if he attends the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) at Coolum, near Brisbane, from March 2-5, 2002.

Human rights campaigner, Peter Tatchell, has written to the Attorney-General, providing him with affidavits from two Zimbabwean journalists, Ray Choto and Mark Chavunduka. These affidavits document their torture in 1999, allegedly on Mugabe's orders.
African dictator and gay rights abuser Robert Mugabe

Under Australia's Crimes (Torture) Act 1988, anyone who commits or condones an act of torture anywhere in the world can be arrested and tried in the Australian courts.

Mr. Tatchell says the affidavits from Choto and Chavunduka provide the legal basis for the Australian Attorney-General to authorize the homophobic President Mugabe's arrest if attends CHOGM.

"Although it now looks unlikely that President Mugabe will attend the Commonwealth summit, it is important that the Australian government signals to the Zimbabwean leader that his human rights abuses constitute crimes under Australian and international law", said Mr. Tatchell.

"Mugabe needs to be put on notice that he will not get away with torture and other crimes against humanity. Like Slobodan Milosevic, Robert Mugabe will eventually be bought to justice".
Text of Peter Tatchell's letter
to the Australian Attorney-General

Hon Daryl Williams AM QC MP
Attorney-General of Australia
Parliament House
Canberra, ACT 2600

20 February 2002

Dear Daryl Williams,

The Legal Case For The Arrest of President Robert Mugabe Of Zimbabwe

Activist Peter Tatchell: Urging Australia to combat genocide and torture from Mugabe I am writing to request your assurance that you will exercise your legal obligation under the Crimes (Torture) Act 1988 to authorise the arrest of President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, if he attends the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Coolum, near Brisbane, from 2-5 March 2002.

There is an overwhelming legal case for the prosecution of President Mugabe under Australia's Crimes (Torture) Act 1988. This legislation gives effect, in Australian law, to the 1984 UN Convention Against Torture. It obliges the Australian government to arrest any person present on Australian territory, where there is evidence they have committed or condoned acts of torture, regardless of where in the world these acts of torture occurred.

Zimbabwean human rights groups, such as the Amani Trust, confirm hundreds of incidents of state-sanctioned torture. The journalists, Ray Choto and Mark Chavunduka, of The Standard newspaper in Harare, are two well-documented victims.

Together with this letter, I am faxing you affidavits from these men attesting to their torture in 1999, allegedly on President Mugabe's personal orders. Their affidavits are backed by Amnesty International and corroborated by the Zimbabwe High Court.

"Military interrogators beat both men all over their bodies with fists, wooden planks and rubber sticks, particularly on the soles of their feet, and gave them electric shocks all over the body, including the genitals. The men were also subjected to 'the submarine' - having their heads wrapped in plastic bags and submerged in a water tank until they suffocated". Amnesty International news release, 21 January 1999.

During their torture, Choto and Chavaunduka were told by their torturers that President Mugabe had personally ordered them to be tortured. Mugabe has since publicly refused to condemn their torture, and has tacitly endorsed it, suggesting that the two men got what they deserved.

These affidavits provide the legal basis for you to authorise the arrest of President Mugabe on charges of torture under the Crimes (Torture) Act 1988. The authenticity of the affidavits can be confirmed by Choto's and Chavunduka's lawyer: Simon Bull of Atherstone & Cook Solicitors, Harare. Phone: 704 244. Fax: 705 180. Email:

The Fiction of Head of State Immunity

Any claim that President Mugabe has Head of State immunity, and therefore cannot be prosecuted, is a legal fiction. Under the UN Convention Against Torture - which Australia has signed, ratified and pledged to enforce - there are no exemptions. No one is immune, not even serving Heads of State.

It therefore cannot be claimed legitimately that President Mugabe has immunity from prosecution for torture under Section 5 (1) of the Crimes (Torture) Act 1988 and Section 3A of the Crimes (Internationally Protected Persons) Act 1976.

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Such a claim does not stand up legally. It is customary law that international human rights statutes take precedence over domestic legislation. Individual states - particularly those that have signed and ratified binding human rights conventions - cannot use national law to invalidate international legislation that they have ratified, especially when crimes against humanity are involved.

Over 50 years ago, following the Nazi atrocities, the Nuremberg Tribunal verdicts established the international human rights principle that in cases of crimes against humanity nobody is above the law.

This Nuremberg principle still applies. It has been reiterated recently in the case of Slobodan Milosevic, who is currently on trial in The Hague. He was initially indicted for crimes against humanity while he was still Head of State of Yugoslavia. It was recognised that a Head of State does not have immunity from prosecution for grave human rights abuses, of which torture is one. The indictment, arrest and prosecution of Milosevic sets a contemporary precedent for the arrest and trial of President Mugabe.

I seek your assurance that you will uphold the Nuremberg principles and enforce the Crimes (Torture) Act 1988 by authorising the arrest of President Mugabe, in the event that he travels to Australia for CHOGM in March.

If Slobodan Milosevic can stand trial in The Hague, why shouldn't Mugabe?

Yours sincerely,
Peter Tatchell

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