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  • 2002 Presidential & Harare Municipal elections - Index of articles


  • Zimbabwe: Assault and sexual violence by militia
    AI Index AFR 46/032/2002 - News Service Nr. 59
    Amnesty International

    April 05, 2002

    State-sponsored militia are continuing to carry out assaults and acts of sexual violence in reprisals against the opposition. Militias are also controlling the distribution of food supplies in rural areas and it is feared that this is systematically being used as a tool of repression against opposition supporters.

    "We are alarmed at reports that reprisal attacks and abductions by militia members are continuing in rural communities of Zimbabwe suspected of voting for the opposition in the recent presidential elections," Amnesty International said.

    Using the published lists of names and addresses of those who acted as polling agents for the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), militia have attacked, abducted and destroyed the homes of these middle-ranking opposition officials. In the rural area outside Gokwe, for example, six homes of polling agents were burnt down. During this past weekend a crowd of 50 militia members in the Bulawayo suburb of Sizinda beat residents in two homes, robbed them of money and destroyed valuables such as televisions and refrigerators. When the outraged community tried to evict the militia from their town hall, police tear-gassed them and arrested 42 people on charges of trying to destroy the building.

    "Eyewitnesses report that police officers told the residents that the militia were 'untouchables' and could not be removed nor restrained," Amnesty International said. "The Zimbabwe government has an absolute obligation, in accordance with international human rights standards, to protect all its citizens from human rights violations. Instead, the government's condoning of militia violence serves a political purpose: destroying an opposition party and taking revenge on Zimbabweans who may still support the MDC."

    Amnesty International is particularly concerned at mounting reports of rape and sexual torture by the militia, continuing the pattern seen in the run up to the 9 - 11 March 2002 presidential elections. During its
    recent visit to Zimbabwe in March, Amnesty International interviewed women in the towns of Kwekwe and Chinhoyi who described rape and sexual abuse by militia members.

    In January 2002, a respected Zimbabwean human rights organization, the Amani Trust, had reported a new pattern of sexual violence after interviewing victims who were forced to rape other victims -- at the instigation of the militia -- in Mashonaland Central Province. By the end of March 2002, the Amani Trust documented further sexual assaults by militia, including incidents in which men were forced by militia to commit sexual assault on one another. In the town of Gokwe in Midlands province, the Amani Trust reported that militia members and army soldiers continued to rape women and teenage girls or forced them to perform humiliating sexual acts in public, in revenge for the "crime" of living in a community perceived to support the opposition.

    Another human rights organization, the Zimbabwe Women Lawyers' Association, estimates that some 1,000 women are being held in militia camps. In Masvingo, newspaper accounts describe farm workers being beaten and forced to watch their wives raped by militia because they may have voted for the opposition.

    Amnesty International estimates that dozens -- perhaps scores of people -- are being held in illegal detention in some 50 militia camps around the country. While many are held for "re-education", some are beaten and reportedly tortured. In the recent case of Ephraim and Faith Tapa, a High Court judge successfully forced the police to rescue the couple who had been abducted in Marondera and held at a militia camp for some 22 days. The High Court Judge issued the court order on 8 March 2002 forcing Police Commissioner Augustine Chihuri to intervene, but deliberately struck out of the draft order submitted by Tapa's lawyers the directive to police to rescue others who were held in illegal detention by the militia.

    The Zimbabwe authorities' political retribution carried out by the militia may become even more widely felt as the risk of famine in Zimbabwe deepens. The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation's (FAO) Global and Early Warning System predicted at the end of 2001 that more than 700,000 people were at risk of food shortages, with another 250,000 urban dwellers already experiencing food difficulties.

    Amnesty International has already received evidence that ZANU PF officials in charge of distributing food supplies in many rural areas are discriminating against those believed to be supporters of the MDC. ZANU - PF affiliated youth militia stationed outside long queues to buy grain are reported to be targeting MDC supporters for assaults and intimidation to prevent them from getting food. In the rural town of Mvurwi, for example, a man standing in line to buy maize meal was beaten after being recognized as an opposition activist by militia members who beat him.

    Human rights lawyer Innocent Gonese confirmed this week that war veteran-led militia control the Grain Marketing Board food distribution facilities in the Matabeleland North Province. They demand a ZANU-PF party card before allowing people to buy maize meal. He confirmed similar acts of discrimination in the towns of Masvingo and Gutu. Amnesty International has also received individual reports confirming militia control of food distribution from Kwekwe, Norton, Plumtree, Beitbridge,Victoria Falls, Chipinge, Kariba and Tsholotsho, north of Bulawayo.

    For more information please call:

    • Amnesty International's press office in London, UK, on +44 20 7413 5566
      Amnesty International, 1 Easton St., London WC1X 0DW
    • Website : http://www.amnesty.org

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