Heal Zimbabwe concerned about continued military crackdown on citizens
Heal Zimbabwe is gravely concerned by the ongoing military crackdown on unarmed civilians. On 2 February 2019, armed soldiers abducted and heavily assaulted a political activist (name withheld) and dumped him at Mbudzi cemetery accusing him of mobilizing citizens to revolt against the government. More worrying is the latest video evidence of a soldier brutalizing an unarmed woman while other plain clothes security detail forces other citizens to crawl on the ground.
Such violent conduct by security forces is deplorable and it is a gross violation of Section 208 (d) of the constitution that stipulates that members of the security services must not violate the fundamental rights or freedom of any person. Added to this, such conduct also breeds hatred and animosity between citizens and security services. Section 12 of our constitution also highlights that the Security services must protect Zimbabwe and its people. Article 7 of the Rome Statute provide for Crimes against humanity. Under Article 7 (k) crimes such as intentionally causing great suffering or serious injury to body or to mental or physical health constitute Crimes against Humanity. Article 4 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights state that “Human rights are inviolable. Every human being shall be entitled to respect for his life and the integrity of his person. No one may be arbitrarily deprived of this right”. Such a provision compel African Union (AU) member states like Zimbabwe to observe, adopt legislative or other measures to ensure the full enjoyment of such rights by citizens.
The increase in cases of human rights violations committed by members of the security services is extremely worrying. It reveals serious institutional weaknesses and insufficient criminal prosecution of human rights violations, especially those committed by members of the security services. Heal Zimbabwe notes that while government can choose to ignore or dismiss reports of military crackdown on its citizens, this however will diminish citizens’ trust and confidence in the government’s sincerity to halt the crackdown. More worrying is the slow pace of constitutional reform. For example Section 210 of the constitution provides for an Independent Complaints Mechanism that is provided for in Section 210 of the constitution. This mechanism allows members of the public to report misconduct committed by members of the security services and is crucial towards remedying any harm caused by such misconduct. These legal and institutional gaps mean that security services who have perpetrated human rights violations in the past remain unpunished. The operationalisation of such a mechanism will help citizens to seek redress on human rights perpetrated by members of the security services.
As more evidence on gross human rights abuses by the security forces continue to emerge, Heal Zimbabwe implores the government to;
1.Prioritize and launch a “zero tolerance” public campaign to end human rights violations perpetrated by members of the security services;
2.Publicly and systematically condemn human rights violations and abuses, regardless of the perpetrator and extend support and assistance to victims;
3.Guarantee the respect of the right to fair trial for all accused persons and groups by ensuring the independence of the judiciary and refraining from all interference;
4.Expedite the national dialogue process with inclusivity and urgency it deserves.