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The primary focus of the present report is the behaviour by Zimbabwe Republic Police, although it also touches upon the conduct of other law enforcement agencies and the conduct on the part of army personnel when acting in concert with the police force.
This report examines the political environment in which the law enforcement agencies have been operating in Zimbabwe since 2000. It explores the extent to which the law enforcement agencies
have become instruments of state repression, and the extent to which the abuses by these agencies are officially condoned, sanctioned or encouraged by their commanders and by the political leaders under whose auspices these agencies operate. As the title of this report indicates, the main issue is: “who guards the guards?” Applied to the law enforcement agencies the question is: who will guard against abuse of the vast powers possessed by members of law enforcement agencies?
The main conclusions of the present report are that:

  • The law enforcement agencies are a major source of human rights abuses in Zimbabwe;
  • These agencies are being used to help the ruling party, ZANU (PF), to suppress opposition and retain power;
  • When these agencies operate in conjunction with the army, there are often increased levels of brutality;
  • Statements made by high-ranking members of the ruling party encourage the law enforcement agencies to perpetrate these abuses and it can be argued that the widespread abuses are state sponsored or at least condoned;
  • The protection of the law has in many cases been denied to those considered hostile to ZANU (PF);
  • For these persons the law enforcement agencies have become an instrument of violence against them rather than an institution that offers them protection. They live in fear of the very agencies that are supposed to protect them;
  • On the other hand, the perpetrators of abuses against these persons have often been immune from legal responsibility for their actions, and this impunity encourages them to continue to commit abuses.

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The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum (the Forum) is a coalition of twenty-two human rights NGOs in Zimbabwe. The Forum’s activities include transitional justice work, research and documentation, and public interest litigation. Learn more about us.

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