The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Manfred Nowak was deported from the airport in Harare yesterday. Prime Minister (and Robert Mugabe’s top political rival) Morgan Tsvangirai invited Nowak to his office in Harare yesterday. But upon arriving at the airport, Nowak was detained by immigration officials and forced on the next plane back to South Africa.
Here is the story, as told from Nowak’s point of view:
Mr. Nowak was invited by the Minister of Justice of Zimbabwe, Mr. Chinamasa, to conduct a fact-finding mission to the country from 28 October to 4 November 2009. While in transit in Johannesburg on 27 October, he was informed that the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Mumbengegwi, had decided on 26 October to postpone the mission.
Waiting in Johannesburg, the Special Rapporteur was informed by letter dated 27 October, that the Prime Minister of Zimbabwe, Mr Morgan Tsvangirai, wished to meet him in his office in Harare on 29 October at 10:00 a.m. He was also informed that he would be picked up at Harare Airport by an official of the Protocol Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Consequently, the Special Rapporteur flew to Harare in the evening of 28 October 2009, to meet the Prime Minister and to discuss with different members of the Government how best to conduct the mission under the changed circumstances.
Upon arrival at Harare Airport at 9:20 p.m. on 28 October, the Special Rapporteur and his team were not met by a Protocol Officer, but by the Head of Airport Immigration, Mr. Nabika. Although the Special Rapporteur and his assistants had valid visas, Mr. Nowak was told that his entry was not cleared by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and that, in the absence of such clearance, he would have to fly back to Johannesburg the next morning. He spent the night at the airport and was sent back on the first flight to Johannesburg on 29 October at 7:20 a.m. All efforts by the United Nations, the Prime Minister, his Secretary, and both Co-Ministers of Home Affairs to facilitate Mr. Nowak’s entry proved unsuccessful. A high level delegation sent by the Prime Minister to go to the airport was even denied access and told that the Special Rapporteur was no longer held at the airport.
The Special Rapporteur strongly protests against such treatment by the various authorities of the Government of Zimbabwe. He urges the Government to fully investigate this incident and to clarify who bears responsibility for the denial of his access to the country. He will report about these experiences to the Human Rights Council.¨