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  • 2002 Presidential & Harare Municipal elections - Index of articles

  • Statement on sexual torture
    Amani Trust
    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 International.

    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 help.

    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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