Amnesty condemns army crackdown

...as Pres Mnangagwa denies army hand in killings

The human rights situation continues to deteriorate since President Emmerson Mnangagwa took office in November 2017, despite his previous assurance of a new political culture in the country, an international human rights organisation has noted.

In its latest report titled, ‘Open for business closed for dissent’ Amnesty International documented the human rights violations committed mainly by the army and police in the wake of the three-day mass protests from January 14 to 16.

Amnesty International condemned the use of force and the deployment of the army and noted that the government had violated the country`s constitution and various regional and international treaties.

“As a result of the crackdown, at least 12 people had been killed by the security forces by 18 January. This was in contravention of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to which Zimbabwe is a party,” the report read.

“The security forces must as far as possible apply non-violent means before resorting to the use of force. In particular, law enforcement authorities must ensure that everyone can enjoy the right to peaceful assembly and that the rights to life and to physical and mental integrity are respected at all times”.

The organisation also noted that it had documented many cases of gross human violations on protesters, including women and children.

“Scores of people including children, women and elderly people were severely beaten, harassed and faced verbal and other forms of physical abuses by security forces during house raids and search operations conducted in Mbare, Chitungwiza, Mabvuku, Kuwadzana, Dombotombo, Marondera, and Dzivarasekwa in Harare.

“Similar incidents were reported in Pumula in Bulawayo and in Mkoba in Gwere, in attempt to arrest suspected protestors and activists of opposition members. All of the acts amount to cruel, degrading and inhuman treatment by security forces,” the report revealed.

“For instance, a 24-weeks pregnant woman in Kuwadzana, a high-density suburb west of Harare, was beaten at her home on 15 January when police officers came to look for men suspected of participating in the protest. The officers started beating her to reveal her husband’s whereabouts. She had a miscarriage as a result of this beating. Another woman in Chinhoyi who was 36-weeks pregnant was badly assaulted during a door-to-door raid on 15 January. She suffered severe bruises”.

Amnesty International also condemned the blanket arrests with some people still languishing in remand prison for crimes they allegedly did not commit.

“In total, 1055 people were tried by courts countrywide in charges related to the protests between 16 January – 31 January.60 Of these, only 48 adults have been granted bail, while 995 were denied bail. Twelve juveniles who were arrested during the mass arrests from various locations in Harare were released into the custody of their parents, guardians or social welfare at various times between 16 January and 31 January,” the report read.

“Amnesty International is concerned about the fast-tracking of cases through the courts without due process and patterns of denial of fair trial rights of people detained by police”.

The organisation called on the government to “end the clampdown on human rights and attacks on peaceful protestors, NGOs, human rights defenders and activists and opposition supporters”.

It also lobbied the government to investigate all cases of human rights violations.

“Undertake a prompt, thorough, impartial and independent investigation into allegations of human rights violations and abuses including rape and other sexual abuse of women by security forces. Anyone suspected to be responsible should be brought to justice in fair trials;

“Take urgent measures to ensure women and other victims of sexual violence and other forms of abuses are provided with safe and effective mechanisms to report their complaints to authorities;

“Ensure access to justice and the right to an effective remedy including access to psycho-social and trauma counselling, adequate compensation, reparations and guarantee of non-repetition to victims and their families”.

However, in a recent interview aired on France24, President Mnangagwa denied claims of human rights violations by the security forces.

“We would want to see evidence where the 17 people were killed, where were they buried. Let us have the relatives who will say I lost a son, I lost a daughter, I lost a cousin, I lost a relative by the hands of the army (sic),” the president said during the interview.

Amnesty International also called upon the African Union (AU) to “deploy a fact-finding mission to assess the human rights situation in Zimbabwe with a view to proposing recommendations on how to effectively address and end the human rights crisis”.

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