Govt under spotlight over police, army brutality 

Source: Govt under spotlight over police, army brutality – NewsDay Zimbabwe

THE United States has raised alarm over continued perpetration of human rights abuses by members of the security sector whom it said were enjoying government impunity.

In a 2021 human rights report released yesterday, the US embassy noted with concern abuses perpetrated by the police, which include arbitrary killing of civilians, torture, inhumane or degrading treatment and arbitrary detention of civilians, among others.

“The Constitution prohibits torture and other cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment or punishment; however, there were reports that police, civilian intelligence and military intelligence officers engaged in such practices with impunity,” the report read.  “Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) reported that security forces abducted, assaulted, and tortured citizens in custody, including targeted assaults on and torture of civil society activists, labour leaders, opposition members, and other perceived opponents of the government.”

The report added: “Throughout the year police used excessive force in apprehending, detaining and interrogating criminal suspects, including the use of torture while in police custody. Police and military officers used violence to enforce COVID-19 lockdown measures, to disperse peaceful demonstrations, and to disrupt informal trading. Impunity remained a problem. The government took very few steps to identify or investigate officials who committed human rights abuses or acts of corruption and did not systematically arrest or prosecute such persons.”

The US also bemoaned government’s failure to respect citizens’ freedoms of expression and association as enshrined in the Constitution and failure to adhere to its international commitments.

The US imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe in 2001 under the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (Zidera) following allegations of human rights abuses, economic mismanagement and electoral theft.

US President Joe Biden last month renewed sanctions against Zimbabwe citing government’s failure to respect human rights and uphold the rule of law.

“There were restrictions on individuals criticising the government or discussing matters of public interest,” the report read. “Authorities were sensitive to criticism in general, particularly when directed at President (Emmerson) Mnangagwa or his family. Persons accused of insulting the President and his office are charged under the law, making undermining the authority of or insulting a President criminal acts. In June the ZPCS commenced disciplinary proceedings against a prison officer for insulting President Mnangagwa based on a comment on his Facebook account. Police also arrested citizens for speaking out against government corruption associated with public resources meant for the government’s COVID-19 response.”

The ruling party was also fingered in the report for aiding the security officers to perpetrate rights abuses against journalists in 2021.

“Security forces, officials and supporters of the ruling party routinely harassed journalists. In April, two opposition activists were hospitalised in Harare after being assaulted in police custody. In May police arrested freelance journalist Jeffrey Moyo and Zimbabwe Media Commission registrar Thabang Manhika on charges of forging accreditation documents for New York Times journalists. After the government deported the New York Times journalists, Moyo was held without bail for 19 days and Manhika was held for 37 days. In August, police arrested and detained journalist Elizabeth Mashiri in Gweru on allegations of disorderly conduct after she captured footage of an incident involving police and informal vendors,” the report added.