NGOs condemn crackdown on human rights activists

Human Rights activists have condemned the increasing cases of human rights violations and threats of violence ahead of the planned Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) demonstrations.

The MDC is set to hold anti-government protests in Harare, Bulawayo and Gweru starting on August 16.

In a media briefing held, Thursday in Harare, non-governmental organisations under the banner, Heads of Coalitions of Civil Society Organisations in Zimbabwe, bemoaned the abduction and torture of human rights activists.

“To date, 6 people have since been tortured by suspected state agents in relation to the planned protests being led by the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC),” said Jestina Mukoko, the spokesperson.

Mukoko also condemned statements from some government officials which they were said were inciting in nature.

“We denounce and condemn statements by senior government officials, particularly statements by Deputy Minister of Defence Victor Matemadanda which are a celebration of and incitement to the killing of civilians exercising their democratic rights.

“This is regrettable especially at a time when many families are still mourning their loved ones killed by soldiers in August 2018 and January 2019,” she said.

Mukoko said organisers of the August 16 have an obligation to ensure that their rights are exercised peacefully.

Section 58 of Zimbabwean constitution guarantees everyone right to freely assembly, associate as well as the right to demonstrate and petition as provided by section 59.

“In the same spirit, we note that these rights must be exercised peacefully without interfering with the other political, civic, economic and social rights of others.

“In that regard, organisers of the August 16, protest have an obligation to ensure that their rights are exercised peacefully and that the right to life and protection of private property will be respected,” she said.

In addition, Mukoko said the police together with the defence forces have an obligation to maintain law and order.

“We reiterate that we do not anticipate to see the ghost of August 1, 2018 and January 2019 shutdown atrocities revisiting the country.

“The Police have an obligation to maintain law and order and not to interfere with people’s enjoyment of human rights. The same applies to the defence forces whose role is to protect life and not to take it,” she said.

“We regret that there are already indications based on circumstantial evidence that some suspected state security agents may have already started attacking human rights defenders, as well as political activists, sadly these developments remind us of the atrocities committed earlier this year in January.

 “We call upon the SADC, the African Union, the United Nations and International community to condemn the unwarranted crackdown on civilians by the state.”

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