Zimbabwe’s human rights environment still remains fragile a week after violence protests rocked the nation. The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum (the Forum) continues to monitor the environment documenting human rights violations since the call for the national stay away on January 14 and the violent protests that followed. The Forum notes that although there is still heavy presence of armed military personnel in most suburbs nationally, and reports of assault continue to be received daily. This report presents a summary of the human rights situation today 24 January 2019. We report on the continuous arbitrary arrest of suspected protestors and attacks on vulnerable groups by members of the security forces.
Around the Country
In Bulawayo, reports of arbitrary arrests have continued to trickle in. Today, a 23 year old man was arrested by security agents dressed in casual clothing at his house in Queens Park. Family members of the victim reported that 3 state security agents in civilian clothing raided the victim’s house this morning and accused him of barricading roads and participating in last week’s protests. The victim was taken to Queens Park police station.
In a similar fashion, reports received also indicate that 3 people (a father and his 2 sons) have deserted their house in the Bulawayo high density suburb of Mpopoma. It was reported that the continuous raids and torture of men by soldiers in the suburb forced the family to flee from their home.
As reports of the continued arrest and victimisation of suspected protestors continue nationally, 5 men have deserted their homesteads in Domboshava after relentless victimisation and intimidation by security forces. The victims ran from their homes following threats of abduction and assaultby security forces. Meanwhile, the spouses and children of the victims have also been subjected to constant harassment and threats.
The Forum also received reports of 20 assault cases from Harare CBD, Dzivarasekwa, Ewporth and Eastlea. The victims, all male, are currently receiving medical treatment.
In Harare, soldiers were observed in confrontation with vendors and commuter omnibus drivers in the CBD. Reports indicate that vendors and commuter omnibus operators who were caught by the soldiers were were taken to an undisclosed location and assaulted. In Epworth, it was reported that joint ZRP and ZNA controlled roadblocks were stopping commuter omnibuses to ascertain the transport fares charged.
It was also reported that yesterday 23 January, state security agents stormed the house of MDC Youth leader Happymore Chidziva searching for him. The security agents had no warrant of arrest or search warrant authorising them to enter his premises. In addition, yesterday evening, state security agents armed with AK 47 Rifles tortured a male victim in connection with last week’s protests. It was verified that state security agents assaulted the victims’ 2 sons aged 19 years to lure the victim out of hiding. The victim was taken from Tafara to the Harare/Mutare highway where he was assaulted with fists and sjamboks. The victim was accused of fueling last week’s protests by giving money to youths to join the protests. The unknown state agents also requested for the whereabouts of James Chidhakwa during the torture.
Attacks on vulnerable groups
The 28 victims of police and military brutality that were receiving treatment at a non-profit medical facility and arrested earlier this week were released last night (23 January 2019) in the streets of Harare. The 28 victims had been receiving treatment for various injuries were arrested and further victimised after the non-profit medical facility was raided earlier this week. The victims are now receiving treatment and psychosocial support.
Reports of sexual assault perpetrated by soldiers have begun to emerge. Sexual are not easy to document because of fear of stigmatization and shame. The Forum has received 3 verified reports of rape from Hopley Mbare and Ruwa. There are also other reports on social media that the Forum is following up on. The Forum is developing a comprehensive bulletin on sexual assault cases which will soon be released.
Continuous attacks on CSO leaders
Reports indicate that yesterday night, state security agents raided the home of Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition Chair Rashid Mahiya and confiscated passports of his wife and kids (aged 6 years and 7 months). It was also reported that Mahiya’s sister spent most of yesterday detained to coerce her to reveal the location of Mahiya.
CITE interviewed victims of violence and torture in Bulawayo this morning. The personal accounts of Bulawayo residents as they recount their stories can be viewed here.
Statements from the Human Rights Community
Today, Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition and Human Rights Watch released a press briefing on the state of affairs in Zimbabwe. The report spoke strongly against the continuous state sponsored violence that has been widely reported from all corners of the nation since 14 January 2018. See the full statement here.
Response from the International Community
The EU delegate to Zimbabwe earlier this morning spoke against the protracted violence that is currently being experienced in Zimbabwe. See full statement here.