At least 23 human rights violations were recorded around the country since our last report on 24 January 2019. These involved mainly the Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA), the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) and other unknown perpetrators. These exclude a tally of the arrests which were still coming in at the time of the compilation of this Update.
In most towns and cities, courtrooms were packed with eager citizens who had come to witness the proceedings of their family members and friends arrested in a joint ZRP and ZNA blitz. Lawyers representing accused persons have raised alarm on the nature of the trials particularly the routine denial of bail. Around the world, SALC has warned that it will be forced to take action against individuals committing crimes against humanity in Zimbabwe. This report summarises human rights developments and reports received on 25 January 2019 related to the #ZimShutdown protests.
Around the country
Reports of violence and torture have continued to trickle in from all corners of the country. There is also strong military presence in what is usually supposed to be normal civilian processes. This includes military presence at fuel filling stations, and the newly introduced buses.
The Forum on Friday interviewed 13 people (including 1 minor) from Domboshava who were victims of military attacks on days ranging from 17 to 24 January 2019. Various degrees of injuries were sustained when military personnel descended on the victims and accused them of participating in the protests. One of the victims had a wound on his right leg consistent with gunshots. Other victims who sustained minor injuries testified that they were tortured using iron bars.
Between 24 and 25 January 2019, at least five (5) incidences of human rights violations were reported in Bulawayo involving multiple perpetrators and victims at different locations. On the night of 24 January 2019, ZRP and ZNA stopped and assaulted a man in Bulawayo. It is reported that the state security agents questioned him about where he was going. Before he could explain himself, he was assaulted with fists and sjamboks. There were also reports of touts and commuter omnibus drivers who were assaulted by state security agents in Bulawayo CBD. Another individual was assaulted in Emakhandeni by the police. It was reported that he failed to produce his National ID Card when requested to do so by armed military police, after which he was assaulted. He sustained back injuries. There are several reports of sexual assault, including rape that the Forum is investigating. A detailed report will be published soon. Some of the victims in Bulawayo have since reported the matter to the police. A man experiencing mental health challenges was also tortured by a group of soldiers and police officers in Mzilikazi high density suburb.
At least five (5) incidences were reported in Harare between 24 and 25 January 2019 involving multiple perpetrators and victims. In Harare, soldiers launched a violent crackdown against vendors, commuter omnibus drivers and illegal foreign exchange dealers. The soldiers were observed assaulting commuter omnibus drivers and touts at Fourth Street Bus Terminus. Some of the vendors and commuter omnibus drivers were arrested and taken to Harare Central Police Station. It was also reported that late afternoon yesterday, a member of the opposition party was abducted in Glen Norah by unknown individuals in an unmarked white vehicle. His current whereabouts are unknown. Reports from Chitungwiza also indicate people are being harassed by ZRP and Military at St Mary’s Police station where they have setup a permanent roadblock. It is reported that yesterday two men coming from work were forced to disembark from the vehicle they were traveling in, after they failed to produce their National Identity Cards. Such incidences have also been reported in Kuwadzana and Mutare.
Arrests and Detentions
On Friday, Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) President, Peter Mutasa has presented himself to the police Harare Central Police Station accompanied by his lawyer Alec Muchadehama of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR).
Elsewhere, ZLHR reports that 13 Hatcliffe residents currently detained for allegedly participating in shutdown protests have been remanded to Monday 28 January 2019 after the High Court postponed bail hearing because the State had not filed its response to their bail application.
From Rotten Row Magistrates court, 7 residents arrested by the police from Kuwadzana and Southlea Park and accused of looting Choppies have been been remanded in custody to 29 January 2019 possibly for trial. They are being represented by ZLHR.
Diaspora Voices Against Violence
On Friday, Zimbabweans in the USA gathered outside the Zimbabwean Embassy in Washington DC, to show their displeasure at the violence taking place in Zimbabwe. The citizens plan to present a paper petition to Zimbabwe’s Ambassador to the US., and also an online petition to several U.S. Congress members.
Statements from the human rights community
Matabeleland Collective, a consortium of human rights organisations operating in Bulawayo have released a press statement on the state of human rights in the country from 14 to 23 January 2019. In their statement, the consortium spoke strongly against the use of excessive force by the military, the continuous victimisation of citizens and the involvement of the military in civilian processes. Read the full statement here
Zimbabwean leaders may be held accountable for crimes against humanity, warns SALC
The Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC) has today issued a strong statement noting that serious crimes against humanity are being committed in Zimbabwe. The statement takes note of the use of live ammunition by soldiers and police on civilians, attacks on victims in medical care, displacements and arbitrary detentions among a litany of other serious violations of human rights. “These reports point towards gross human rights violations and raise serious concerns that Zimbabwe government officials are committing serious international crimes including torture and crimes against humanity.”
The statement further warns, “As a regional body that strives to hold governments accountable for the commission of international crimes including acts of torture and crimes against humanity, SALC reiterates its position that it will take steps towards holding those individuals who are committing the crimes in Zimbabwe.” Read the full statement here.