Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum has called on the government to ensure justice for victims of the 2019 January Shutdown protests by holding the state security agents who perpetrated the atrocities to account and compensate victims or their families for the loss suffered.
In remembering the violent protests, the Forum, in a statement, said the atrocities are still fresh in the minds of Zimbabweans as some are still mourning their deceased.
“A year after the infliction of harm and loss of lives at the hands of State security agents following the #ZimShutDown fuel price hike protests of January 14th 2019, the atrocities committed are still fresh in the hands of Zimbabweans.
“Some are still mourning their deceased relatives and friends, some have permanent bodily and psychological injuries,” said the Forum.
The consortium said only justice and elimination of conditions that trigger public discontentment can move the nation forward.
“The nation has not forgotten; history has taught us that episodes of violent repression cannot simply be wished away through selective amnesia. Only justice and eliminating the conditions for public discontentment can move the nation forward.”
The forum added that the January 2019 crackdown will rank amongst the darkest episodes in post-independent Zimbabwe as the government used the State machinery to instill fear in its own citizens.
“During the period January 14-February 5, 2019, the Forum documented 1 803 human rights violations, including 17 extra- judicial killings and 17 cases of rape and sexual violence in an onslaught that was of higher scale from the violations witnessed on August 1, 2018, where six extra-judicial killings were documented,” read the statement.
In addition, the forum blamed the government’s failure to properly document violations experienced by children and women during the violent protests.
“The forum documented at least 51 cases of the arrest and detention of children in a report titled ‘ Hear them cry’, an analysis of State violence against children during the 2019 protests and torture of assault were recorded at the point of arrests where children were bundled up with adults over detained.
“In another report ‘ Burdened by disgrace’ an analysis of rape and sexual violence cases during the January 2019 protests, the forum reported the atrocities women faced in the form of sexual violence and rape, which cases were never properly investigated by the government.
“The forum further reported in Justice under siege, a legal analysis of the subversion of due process from August 2018 to February 2019 that due process was subverted, including through blanket denials of bail for arrest and fast-tracking of trials without affording the accused persons time to prepare their defence.”
“Some of the affected victims were exercising their freedom of peaceful assembly in protest while some were innocent citizens caught up in dragnet and arbitrary arrest while going about their normal business, the consortium said.