Zimbabwe: Civil society concerned as human rights violations persist after violent reprisal for protests

Human rights violations continue in Zimbabwe in the aftermath of the violent attacks against protesters on 14 to 16 January 2019. More than 700 people have been detained. The military continues to physically assault citizens and the legal process for many of those who are in detention is seriously flawed. We need to stand in solidarity with the people of Zimbabwe and call on the government to address the concerns of its citizens, stop all human rights violations, demilitarise the streets and release all those detained in relation to the protests. Sign the letter below addressed to President Emmerson Mnangagwa with a call for him to address these human rights concerns.

21 February 2019

Office of the President and Cabinet

Munhumutapa Building

Corner Samora Machel Avenue and Sam Nujoma

Harare, Zimbabwe

Tel: 00 263 24270 7091/7



Dear Sir,

Re: Civil society concerned as human rights violations persist after violent reprisal for protests

We the undersigned civil society organisations, based in different countries across the world, write to you to express our concerns over the continued human rights violations taking place in Zimbabwe, more than a month after the violent reprisal for protests. We are appalled at the ongoing violence targeting ordinary citizens and members of civil society and high levels of impunity enjoyed by those responsible for these actions.

Mr. President, there is an urgent need for inclusive dialogue in Zimbabwe and for the deep divisions and mistrust fostered by recent events between the government, civil society and citizens to be addressed. Since protests were violently dispersed from 14 to 16 January 2019, the streets in Zimbabwe have been heavily militarised and soldiers have been breaking into homes and subjecting citizens to some of the worst forms of human rights violations that have included shootings, severe assaults and rape. The human cost from the response to the protests is immense. At least seventeen people were killed during the protests or succumbed to injuries from the violations, more than 316 injured, many with gunshot wounds, and at least 700 arbitrarily arrested or detained. The arbitrary arrests and sentencing of many is at variance with Zimbabwe’s Criminal Procedures and Evidence Act. A majority of those detained have been subjected to flawed legal processes including mass trials, and many are been denied bail. Some have been brought to the courts with visible injuries, requiring urgent medical attention and many more subjected to mass trials without proper access to legal representation. There is an urgent need for the respect the rule of law in Zimbabwe.

We are concerned by reports which indicate that in the aftermath of the protests, security forces raided medical facilities, including the Belvedere Medical Centre in Harare, where some of the injured received medical attention and assaulted them again before whisking them off to detention in police stations. Many human rights defenders and civil society representatives have been targeted and accused of colluding with the political opposition to “unseat” the regime. Some have been forced to go into hiding in Zimbabwe and others have had to flee the country to avoid being subjected to torture or worse. Human rights defender Pastor Evan Mawarire is free on stringent bail conditions and also faces charges of subverting the government while the Secretary General of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) Japhet Moyo has been detained and injured and faces charges of attempting to overthrow a constitutionally elected government.

Mr. President, before the 30 July 2018 elections, many Zimbabweans – and most of us in the international community – had hoped to see a peaceful political transition that would usher a new dawn where the rule of law was upheld, and the fundamental rights of all citizens respected. Unfortunately, we are witnessing a continuation of violence against citizens who legitimately exercise their discontent over excessive hikes in the prices of basic commodities and a deteriorating economic environment. While we welcome the release of some of those detained, many more remain behind bars unjustly.

We urge your government to initiate efforts to find a lasting solution to the challenges affecting Zimbabwe.

We appeal to you to urgently organise a multi-stakeholder dialogue process that will bring together your government, members of civil society, the political opposition, youth, academics, labour representatives and representatives of the religious community and minority groups, to chart a path to peace, in which all Zimbabweans can participate.

We urge your government to immediately withdraw armed soldiers out of residential and city areas in both urban and rural Zimbabwe and to carry out an independent investigation into the violence and ensure that perpetrators from the Zimbabwe National Army and Zimbabwe police are held accountable.

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