HUMAN rights lobby group, the Zimbabwe Human Rights Forum says it recorded at least 920 human rights violations involving State security agents under the guise of enforcing the COVID-19 lockdown restrictions.
BY Nhau Mangirazi
In a report launched yesterday, the rights group said the violations included abductions and torture, extra-judicial killings, assaults on citizens by law enforcement officers, attacks on journalists, unlawful arrests and gunshots.
Most of the violations were recorded ahead of the foiled July 30 protests where citizens intended to demonstrate against the deteriorating human rights situation and corruption in the country.
“Other violations that could not be adequately quantified due to their high frequency include harassment, threats and intimidation,” read part of the report titled 180 Days of What?.
“The lockdown was also marred by reports of violations on fundamental rights to dignity and rights not to be tortured, rights to water, food, medical services, access to information, and restrictions to freedom of expression, non-compliance with court orders and corruption.”
According to the report, about 280 reports of assaults and torture, including dog bites, were recorded, while 20 cases of assault on journalists and 538 unlawful arrests and detention were recorded.
The rights defenders also recorded 12 abductions, two gun shots, four extra-judicial killings, eights raids, 57 displacements and two cases of harassment, threat and intimidation across the country.
In a country with a fragile economy, the pandemic further exacerbated the plight of citizens in relation to social and economic rights.
Access to water, food and health was also a major challenge for communities, forcing the majority to venture out in search of the services and inadvertently violating lockdown regulations.
The report also noted the failure by government to provide personal protective equipment in hospitals as the biggest cause of the spread of the COVID-19.
“This report was compiled from stories recorded across the length and breadth of our country. It captures personal accounts of victims of all sorts of violations, through 180 stories. The report is also a scorecard of the performance of duty bearers in this time of crisis,” Musa Kika, the rights group executive director said.
“The 180 days national lockdown period was marred by violations of civil and political rights as well as economic, social and cultural rights.”
Police were urged to conduct a thorough investigation into all outstanding reported cases concerning excessive use of force and live ammunition by security forces on citizens and bring the perpetrators to book.
The human rights lobby group also urged government to stop persecuting whistleblowers and establish an independent and credible department that monitors and oversees compliance to prevent human rights violations, corruption and malpractices by police officers.