Zimbabwe: FIDH and ZimRights Condemn Gross Human Rights Violations by Police Including Extrajudicial Killing, Torture and Abductions

25/05/2020
Press release
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Paris, Nairobi, Harare. 22 May 2020 – Three women leaders of the MDC-A opposition party were abducted and tortured by law enforcement officers last week near Harare, on the heels of other recent acts of police violence in Zimbabwe. The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and its member organisation in Zimbabwe, the Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights), denounce this worrying rise in gross human rights abuses by law enforcement officials and call on Zimbabwean authorities to open investigations into all cases of police brutality against civilians in Zimbabwe and bring perpetrators to justice.

Last week’s incident follows the extrajudicial killing of a Bulawayo city resident beaten to death by the police on 30 March and policemen’s torture of two women accused of violating lockdown regulations, in Cowdray Park in Harare on 16 April.

“At a time when the government must focus on leading the nation in fighting Covid-19, it is regrettable that the security forces and services have themselves become a plague worse than the pandemic they are claiming to fight,” declared Dzikamai Bere, national director of ZimRights.

In the recent case involving three leaders of opposition party Movement for Democratic Change Alliance (MDC-A), ZimRights has ascertained that on Thursday, 14 May 2020, three women leaders of this political party—Joanna Mamombe, a MDC Member of Parliament for Harare West; Cecilia Chimbiri, the National Vice Chairperson of the MDC Alliance Youth Assembly; and Netsai Marova, the Deputy Organising Secretary of the MDC Alliance Youth Assembly—were found dumped on a roadside by villagers, with signs of severe abuse, near Bindura, a town north-east of Harare. Medical evidence suggests that the three were subjected to torture.

The three party leaders had been arrested the day before by police at a roadblock on way from Warren Park suburb of Harare for violating the lockdown while taking part in a peaceful demonstration protesting against the management of the Covid-19 crisis. While police denied that the three were in their custody, victims claim that they were then taken to Harare Central Police Station. Upon arrival at the police station the three political activists were bundled into an unmarked Toyota minivan and drove to a remote, wooded area where they were brutally tortured.

“A thorough and independent investigation into this incident must be opened immediately, so that these heinous crimes are prosecuted, and the perpetrators brought to justice,” said Alice Mogwe, President of FIDH and President of DITSHWANELO - The Botswana Centre for Human Rights.

FIDH and ZimRights therefore call on the Zimbabwean authorities to open an investigation into this latest case and other cases of grave human rights violations, bring perpetrators to justice without delay and respect the Constitution’s and international standards’ provisions on torture. Torture is among the most serious of international crimes and is outlawed by section 53 of the Zimbabwean Constitution.

Background:

Since January 2019, a total of 275 cases of torture by police have been documented by ZimRights, including more than 40 cases of abductions. There has been a spike in human rights violations since Zimbabwe’s lockdown was put in place on 30 March 2020, with law enforcement officers leading the list of perpetrators.

The Zimbabwe Republic Police is obliged by section 206 of the Constitution to perform their duties with utmost regard to the fundamental rights protected in the Constitution. While the Constitution further provides for the establishment of an Independent Complaints Mechanism to hear complaints against the security sector, the government has not yet taken steps to operationalise the mechanism.

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