West condemns use of excessive force to deal with protestors

...criticises government for shutting down the internet for its citizens.

The European Union (EU) and the United States (US) have condemned the use of excessive force by Zimbabwean security personnel in dealing with protestors during the nationwide shutdown.

In separate statements, both the EU and US said disproportionate force was unnecessary and also criticised government for shutting down the internet for its citizens.

Armed soldiers and anti-riot police have allegedly been taking part in door-to-door operations seeking for people suspected to have participated in Monday’s nationwide protests.

“The escalation of violence in Zimbabwe over recent days has been aggravated by the disproportionate use of force by security personnel. We expect the Government of Zimbabwe to uphold human rights and the rule of law, as enshrined in the Constitution, and make sure there is due legal process for those detained,” said the EU.

The EU added that access to medical services should be granted to those in need.

“It is essential that demonstrations be carried out peacefully; the destruction of private or public property is unacceptable,” read the statement.

Shutting down access to the internet should also be reversed, added the mission.

“Access to information is a universal right and should be respected by Government in accordance with its constitutional and international obligations,” the EU said.

Zimbabweans were blocked out from the internet around 10am Tuesday until it was temporarily restored Wednesday evening when the government allowed internet service providers to restore internet services, but block access to social media sites and apps.

The internet was shut down again on Thursday night, as security forces continued cracking down against critics of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government

The EU also expected authorities to conduct a thorough investigation into the deaths and abuses that have occurred since protests began.

“In this context, the recommendations made recently by the Commission of Inquiry on post-election violence are particularly relevant and require urgent implementation. The Zimbabwean authorities chose to follow the path of reform,” it said.

In its statement, the US Embassy expressed concern on reports of violence and urged all parties to exercise restraint.

“We condemn any disproportionate use of force and call on Zimbabwe’s security forces to respond to civil unrest professionally and with respect for human life and constitutional rights.  We are also alarmed by credible reports that security forces are targeting and beating political activists and labour leaders,” said the mission.

The US said it strongly supported freedom of expression, freedom of association, and peaceful assembly but condemned the acts of looting and threats.

“People have the constitutional right to protest and express their views peacefully. We condemn acts of arson and looting and threats against citizens. We call on protesters to refrain from violence and threats of violence, which will only cause further economic hardship.”

The embassy also called the authorities out for shutting down internet facilities.

“We are concerned by the Zimbabwean government’s blocking of Internet services in the country from January 15 to 16 and urge the restoration of access to social media sites and applications.  We call on the Zimbabwean government to respect its constitutional and international legal obligations regarding the right to freedom of expression,” said the US embassy.

So far reports say at least 700 people across the country including two MDC Alliance MPs and prominent activist Evan Mawarire, have been arrested, charged with crimes ranging from incitement of violence, looting, arson, violence, barricading roads, attempted murder.

Midlands has the highest number of people arrested at 196, Harare made 181 arrests, Bulawayo -104 arrests, Mashonaland West – 86 arrests. Manicaland – 80 arrests, Mashonaland East – 21 arrests and Mashonaland Central – 16 arrests.

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