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2002 Presidential & Harare Municipal elections - Index of articles
Statement on sexual torture
January 07, 2002
Over the last few
months there has been increasing evidence of the youth militia involved
in organized violence of having received formal training in torture techniques.
When the violence started in March 2000, much of the documented narrative
history was concerned with random beatings and assault with whatever objects
were available, victims were beaten in situ and not abducted, and were
beaten for relatively short periods of time. The injuries noted on medical
examination were mainly soft tissue injuries with very few skeletal fractures,
and there was no particular pattern of injury noted.
As the violence has continued and increased, definite patterns of injury,
particular to different groups of perpetrators, has emerged. There has
also been a steady increase in narrative histories, confirmed by medical
evidence, of organized torture where internationally documented forms
of torture have been used by the perpetrators. Abduction of victims to
special bases became more common than random beatings at home, and the
victims were systematically beaten on the feet (falanga), beaten on the
buttocks and thighs, to the extent that large deep muscle abscesses developed,
whipped on the back with sjamboks, fan belts and batons, and slapped around
the head so that the victim suffered ruptured ear drums (telephono). There
was also a marked increase in the number of skeletal fractures, in particular
fractures of the hand bones and forearms, where victims had tried to defend
their heads with their hands, and fractures of the lower limbs where the
victims were beaten with logs or iron bars. A number of falanga victims
sustained fractures of the small bones of the feet, indicating the severity
of the beating. Head injuries and victims reporting periods of unconsciousness
during assault also increased.
The reports of Zimbabwean human rights organizations have been consistently
verified by experts from international organizations, in particular the
International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims [IRCT] and Amnesty
However, a new and very disturbing form of torture has emerged in the
last few weeks, with even more long-term ramifications for the victims
than the physical and psychological trauma sustained with physical torture.
Forced rape by men, witnessed both by the perpetrators of the violence
and others, is being imposed on the victims, with the victims being forced
to have sexual intercourse with other victims, either heterosexual or
homosexual, with the perpetrators 'supervising' the act. The result of
this in each case documented has been a victim with a severe genital infection,
with marked psychological trauma. The long-term consequence will be men
and women unable to function within their marriage, or within their communities.
The long-term consequences to each of these victims, both partners in
the forced sexual act, is life threatening, to both them, their spouse
and their future children with the very real risk of the victims contracting
HIV. Reproductive ability is also threatened as one of the complications
of untreated genital infections is infertility.
All the cases documented to date have been in the Mashonaland Central
area (Muzarabani) except for one case from Muhrewa. In the Muhrewa case
the women who was raped was subsequently murdered a few days later by
the perpetrators. In all of the cases documented to date, the victims
indicated that there were others being subjected to this vile torture.
Reports of rape have continually been made since February 2000, but have
been extremely difficult to verify. The victims have mostly been young
women from the rural areas, either from the commercial farms or the communal
areas. They are generally the least powerful members of Zimbabwean society,
and the least likely to complain on their own behalf. They have suffered
the additional burden of being threatened if they complain or seek medical
This new trend is an extremely sinister development and must be condemned
by all. The indications that torture techniques are spreading across the
country must strongly suggest that training in these methods is taking
place. When this is seen against government practice of deliberately militarizing
the youth of Zimbabwe, the trend is horrifying, and evokes memories of
Bosnia, most especially the widespread use of sexual torture. In Zimbabwe,
it is disturbing in the extreme that sexual torture is now not used merely
against women, but targets men equally.
The AMANI Trust has since its inception tried to bring the horrors of
torture and its long-term consequences into the consciousness of the nation.
We must condemn in the strongest possible terms these latest developments,
and demand immediate action by the authorities. We demand immediate investigations
into these crimes, and also into the training and operation of the various
militia groups now deployed within the Zimbabwean community.
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