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Zimbabwe Attorney General Draws Fire Defending Abductions, Torture

Zimbabwe Attorney General Johannes Tomana stirred up a controversy this week when he was quoted in the state-controlled Herald newspaper as saying that the state can use extra-judicial measures such as abductions and torture if national security is at risk.

Human rights activists condemned his comments saying they showed that the rule of law has been seriously undermined by the long-ruling ZANU-PF party which Tomana backs.

But Tomana told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that justice is intact, saying state security agents can use extra-judicial measures in some cases. "Torture internationally is condemned, even our national laws condemn it," he said.

"But it is important to understand what that means. If somebody turns themselves into a real beast against the security of the people, I think it is very immoral to talk about very nice ways of dealing with them. When people do not deal with human beings as humans, people that threaten the security of people are not behaving as human beings and when they do that the methods of accounting for them differ," Tomana said.

Chief Parliamentary Whip Innocent Gonese of the Movement for Democratic Change wing led by MDC founder and prime minister designate Morgan Tsvangirai, a lawyer in eastern Mutare, said Tomana’s comments do not inspire confidence in the justice system.

Meanwhile, in court proceedings in the case of detained human rights activist Jestina Mukoko, abducted Dec. 3 and later produced by police and accused of trying to topple the government of President Robert Mugabe, a Harare magistrate ruled that the case should be referred to the country's supreme court for the examination of constitutional issues.

Lawyers for Mukoko and political activists have argued that they should be set free because they were abducted by agents of the national security apparatus acting extra-judicially.

Harare correspondent Thomas Chiripasi of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe reported that a panel of supreme court judges led by Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku will be called to sit as the Constitutional Court to to preside over the case.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...