Human rights lawyers have given a one-week ultimatum to the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) to probe the ruthless assault of Sydney Chisi, a prominent human rights campaigner and bring some police officers to account for the barbaric attack.
Chisi, the Director of Youth Initiative for Democracy in Zimbabwe was mercilessly assaulted by uniformed members last Friday during a peaceful demonstration organised by civil society organisations to protest against xenophobic violence in South Africa, where Zimbabweans and other foreign nationals have been targeted.
The human rights campaigner was assaulted by a group of 15 truncheon wielding police officers who descended on him with heavy force and assaulted him all over the body to such an extent that he passed out even though he had not committed any offence to warrant such wanton use of violence against him. Chisi, who is still nursing injuries sustained from an accident failed to flee for his dear life as he could not run or move any faster. The human rights campaigner who sustained serious injuries all over the body including on his head and hands had to be admitted at a local health institution where upon admission he was put on life support. Because of the serious injuries he sustained, Chisi will be severely restricted from carrying out his professional duties for some time.
In a formal complaint letter served on the ZRP this week, lawyers from Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights challenged the ZRP to institute a probe into the assault of Chisi and commence punish the police officers who brutalised him after they broke up the peaceful demonstration.
“We expect that the ZRP, as the government department that is mandated by the Constitution of Zimbabwe to enforce the law, protect the citizens; including ensuring their safety and security will urgently investigate this matter and bring the responsible police officers to account. We also hope that the ZRP will take up for policy action, as well as disciplinary and criminal action against the errant members of the ZRP whose conduct is in clear violation of the Constitution,” reads part of the ZLHR letter written to the police by ZLHR lawyer Kennedy Masiye.
Masiye, who was also a victim of police brutality in November last year, asked the ZRP to provide him with the identities and police force numbers of the uniformed officers who were deployed to attend the demonstrations and were present during the anti-xenophobia demonstration and to make available the identity and police force number of the commanding officer who deployed the police officers to attend the demonstration.
Masiye said in the event of the ZRP’s failure to provide the requested details within seven days, he would be forced to take further legal action to protect the interests of his client.
Masiye said the conduct of the ZRP officers who assaulted the YIDEZ director was unprofessional and a violation of the constitution which guarantees the right to demonstrate and petition and outlaws cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and torture.
The human rights lawyer said not only is the assault of Chisi unlawful but amounts to torture and inhuman and degrading treatment and punishment, which is an international crime and prohibited by both the Zimbabwe Constitution and regional and international instruments to which Zimbabwe is a State Party.
Zimbabwean police are notorious for committing for committing gross human rights abuses and have been hauled before the country’s courts by several human rights and political activists who have claimed damages for assault and torture. At one time, a senior police officer Henry Dowa was dropped from a United Nations peace keeping mission after he was accused of having been involved in the torture of civilians in Zimbabwe. However, Dowa denies the accusations.