MPs: Adopt UN anti-torture convention

11May 2019
Polycarp Machira
DODOMA
The Guardian
MPs: Adopt UN anti-torture convention

A SECTION of members of Parliament yesterday demanded why Tanzania has failed to ratify the United Nations Convention against Torture (UNCAT), saying the loophole allows people to suffer in police hands.

Malindi MP Ali Saleh.

The convention is the most important international human rights treaty that deals exclusively with torture. It obligates countries who have signed the treaty to prohibit and prevent torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in all circumstances.

The convention defines torture as any act by which severe pain or suffering, physical or mental, intentionally inflicted on a person for such as obtaining from that person or a third person information or confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person may have committed.

Standing on a supplementary question, Malindi MP Ali Saleh (CUF) wondered why the government has not ratified the convention which seeks to end all kinds of torture.

He argued that many people in the country suffer in the hands of police officers while in custody as the government has not ratified the treaty. "When shall Tanzania ratify the treaty and help reduce the ever increasing cases of torture in the hands of law enforcers in the country?" he asked.

His sentiments were echoed by Special Seats MP Aida Kenani (CHADEMA) who told the House that police officers torture people under custody to say the truth that they want.

"For how long shall we see innocent people suffering in the hands of the police and other authorities while the government has failed to take action?" she wondered.

In his supplementary question, Chonga MP Mohamed Juma Khatibu (CUF) also questioned the government’s failure to ratify the international treaty, stressing that it is high time state authorities change in how they deal with people in custody.

He observed that torture continues in the country despite complaints from different stakeholders, underlining the need to adhere to human rights accords.

Earlier in the main question the MP sought clarification as in what circumstances the police are allowed to torture people they have arrested or are still in police stations.

But in response, the deputy minister for Home Affairs, Hamad Masauni said Chapter 20(11) of the Criminal Procedure Act, states the procedure on arrest.

"This special chapter for arrests however does not allow police officers to torture any person under arrest or is in police station," said the deputy minister.

He said the Police General Orders (PGO) do not apply for torture and describe the best practices for police conduct. Any officer found to have tortured a person in custody or under arrest faces disciplinary action including being fired and taken to court, he added.