Harare, Zimbabwe (PANA) - Human Rights Watch (HRW) says Zimbabwe’s security forces used excessive lethal force to quell protests that resulted in 17 deaths and the rape of 17 women during anti-government protests in January 2019.
The American advocacy group report titled “Zimbabwe: Excessive Force Used Against Protesters” released on Tuesday and copied to PANA, the Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR) provided emergency medical services to 81 people with gunshot wounds.
“Zimbabwe security forces used excessive lethal force to crush nationwide protests in mid-January 2019. President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s sudden announcement of a fuel price increase of 150 percent resulted in three days of demonstrations throughout Zimbabwe in which security forces fired live ammunition, killing 17 people, and raped at least 17 women,” the HRW report read.
“While the protests have ended, the security force crackdown continues mainly in Harare, the capital. The government’s failure to address the issues underlying the protests, including the hike in fuel prices, means the situation could deteriorate further,” the report added.
In spite of the fact that the protests have ended, state security has continued to engage in abuses, intimidation, kidnapping, and detaining civic and opposition leaders with disregard for their judicial rights, the report continued.
HRW Southern Africa director Dewa Mavhinga said Zimbabwe’s security forces carried out killings, rape, torture and other grave abuses-during and since the January protests.
“The authorities should arrest and prosecute those responsible for abuses and send a strong message that crimes by the security forces won’t be tolerated,” he added.
Medical services provided by ZADHR were given in Harare, Bulawayo, Gweru, Karoi, Chinhoyi, Chitungwiza, Kadoma, and Mutare between January 14 and January 29 during national protests against Mnangagwa’s governance.
According to medical reports, 14 men and 3 women were shot and killed by security forces between January 14 and February 5.
“Fourteen of those died from gunfire, while three died from injuries sustained following severe beatings. Most of those killed were from Epworth, Chitungwiza, and Harare’s Mbare and Warren Park suburbs,” the HRW report read.
“Among those killed was 22-year-old footballer Kelvin Tinashe Choto, whom the police shot in the head during protests in Chitungwiza on January 14.
In Mbare, a suburb of Harare, witnesses said that police and soldiers fatally shot Tony Nyapokoto, a 36-year-old driver, in the neck in front of his house on January 15.
One of the gunshot victims, Patricia Kamuriwo, 36, said she was shot in the thighs as she crossed the road to look for her child when security forces fired on protesters on January 14, in Epworth, near Harare.
With regard to the rape cases, the HRW report found that security forces used the protest crackdown to commit several of these sexual offences.
“Eight women from Hopley, Southlea Park, and Epworth in Harare province told Human Rights Watch in separate interviews that they were raped by uniformed and armed soldiers and police, some concealing their identities with masks.
A 46-year-old woman said nine armed men, six in army uniform, came to her house in Epworth on January 15 at about 9 pm,” the HRW report read.
“Two soldiers raped her without condoms in front of her teenage son. At the local police station, the police refused to record her complaint, telling her: “These things happen, these things are happening all over the country, so we cannot receive your report or open a police case docket.”
Some of the state security personal who committed the rape did so without using condoms, which increased the risk of transmitting HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, according to the HRW report.
“One survivor said before they took turns to rape her without using condoms, two soldiers said she should be raped as punishment to make her “tell the truth” about her husband’s possible involvement in opposition politics,” the HRW report read.
Other cases of rape were reported in Hopley, a neighbourhood in Harare.
At about 8 p.m. on January 15, two soldiers stopped a 22-year-old woman on her way to the shop and accused her of being a prostitute, then forced her to perform oral sex on one of them.
In another incident, on January 17, a group of soldiers broke into another woman’s house in Hopley but after her husband ran away, two soldiers took turns raping her without using condoms as her three children watched.
The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights reported that police and army personnel carried out indiscriminate door-to-door raids, forcibly entering homes by breaking doors and windows, in some Harare suburbs including Mabvuku, Dzivarasekwa, Warren Park, and Kuwadzana between January 14 and January 29.
The findings in the HRW report, corroborate earlier findings by the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) in a report released on January 28, 2019.
“The UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials provide that whenever the lawful use of force is unavoidable, security forces need to use restraint and act in proportion to the seriousness of the offense>.
“Law enforcement officials should not use firearms against people except to protect against the imminent threat of death or serious injury,” the HRW report read.
HRW found that state security personal in dealing with the protests were “unnecessarily, extremely excessive and lethal”.
It said despite the overwhelming evidence of the crimes committed by state security, there had been only two arrests made by the Zimbabwean government to date.
On Wednesday, Parliament debated on the Human Rights Report compiled by the ZHRC.
-0- PANA RA 13 Mar2019