A former Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) agent who admitted smashing an MDC supporter’s jaw with pliers, and then pulling out their tooth, has been granted asylum in the UK along with his wife.
The 47-year-old ex-CIO man, identified by his initials PM, was originally turned down by the Home Office which said he had “committed crimes against humanity”.
But Mr Justice David Archer of the First Tier Tribunal of the Immigration and Asylum Chamber allowed his and his wife’s appeals in a judgement delivered on May 4, 2011. The Home Office is not appealing.
At the appeal hearing held in Newport in April, the Tribunal heard how PM, who joined the CIO in 1996 and quit in 2000 before fleeing to the UK, had TORTURED and KILLED President Robert Mugabe’s political opponents.
Despite finding that he was “deeply involved in savage acts of extreme violence”, the judge said deporting him to Zimbabwe would breach his rights under Articles 2 and 3 of the European Human Rights Convention.
“Those rights are absolute and whatever crimes PM has committed, he cannot be returned to face the highly likely prospect of torture and execution without trial,” the judge ruled.
The finding means PM is not recognised as a refugee as per the Refugee Convention which has an exclusion clause for individuals involved in crimes against humanity, but qualifies for protection under the Human Rights Convention.
PM’s 40-year-old wife, FM, was however granted refugee status after the judge allowed her appeal on the finding that “she has been active in the MDC and ROHR [Restoration of Human Rights Zimbabwe] in the UK”.
“She has a significant profile,” said Mr Justice Archer. “It is highly likely that she will be targeted in Zimbabwe by the CIO because of her links to her husband or more generally because of her activities and length of stay in the UK.”
The former CIO operative, who admitted he was HIV positive, said he joined the spy agency in 1996. His first assignment was as a bodyguard to the late cabinet minister, Enos Chikowore.
In 1999, he “tortured a person by hitting their jaw with pliers and pulling out a tooth”. In the same year, he went to the house of an MDC supporter who was forced to sit naked in front of his daughters and told that if he did not provide information, he would be forced to have sex with them.
In 2000, he tortured a white farmer only identified in court as “Mr Thornhill” after hearing rumours that he was providing financial support to the MDC. Thornhill was “electrocuted, slapped, beaten and punched to the point of being unconscious”.
On another occasion, PM admitted taking a female MDC member to an underground cell where she was stripped naked and tortured with whips made of hide. PM “put salt to her wounds”.
He stated that he was involved in the kidnapping and torture of dozens of MDC supporters. “Some were killed slowly and their bodies disposed of. He witnessed people with their limbs cut off. This was a slow way of torture. Other acts of torture were too gruesome to recount,” the judge said.
PM stated he quit the CIO after he had “enough of the torture”. He took leave before fleeing to the UK on July 1, 2000. He was granted six months leave to enter as a visitor but overstayed. He claimed asylum on October 16, 2008. His wife arrived in the UK on June 13, 2001, and claimed asylum on September 29, 2008.
On the evidence, the judge said the Home Office had presented a “compelling case that PM committed crimes against humanity”. He also rejected PM’s claim that he was acting under duress.
On PM’s claims that he passed information to the MDC while still actively in service, the judge said this was not a defence to crimes against humanity.
But despite his “savage acts” of violating others’ rights, the judge said deporting him to Zimbabwe would be a death sentence.