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Operation Murambatsvina - Countrywide evictions of urban poor - Index of articles
Mass evictions lead to massive abuses
September 11, 2005
delays provision of U.N. humanitarian assistance
(London) - In
its policy of forced evictions and mass displacement, the Zimbabwean
government has violated the human rights of hundreds of thousands
of its citizens, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today.
Over the past
two weeks, the Zimbabwean authorities have compounded the suffering
by refusing to fully cooperate with United Nations agencies and
humanitarian groups working to assist the evicted population. On
August 26, President Robert Mugabe's government rejected the terms
of a draft U.N. emergency appeal that would have helped hundreds
of thousands of those hardest hit by the evictions.
report, "Clear the Filth:
Mass Evictions and Demolitions in Zimbabwe," documents
how the government has violated the human rights of its citizens
by arbitrarily forcing them to destroy their property without due
notice, process or compensation, and by displacing thousands into
the rural areas where they lack basic services such as health care,
education, clean water or means of economic support.
government has caused untold suffering to poor and vulnerable people,"
said Tiseke Kasambala, Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch.
"To make matters worse, Mugabe's government is now delaying
the provision of much-needed humanitarian assistance to hundreds
of thousands of people affected by the evictions."
consequences of "Operation Murambatsvina" ("Operation
Clear the Filth") have been catastrophic. Thousands of men,
women and children are now internally displaced and are living without
access to humanitarian assistance, particularly in the rural areas
where acute food shortages are looming and humanitarian agencies
have had difficulties tracing those in need of assistance.
The United Nations
estimates that as many as 700,000 people have been evicted and their
houses and properties demolished since the government launched the
operation on May 19.
Watch said that women, children, persons living with HIV/AIDS and
foreign-born residents were particularly hard hit by the evictions.
Accounts of the victims share a common thread: all cite a similar
process of forced, indiscriminate and often violent displacement
at the hands of police coupled with consistent orders to move to
are showing no mercy. They were beating us with baton sticks and
their boots if we didn't destroy our houses quickly enough,"
a young woman in Harare told Human Rights Watch about the brutal
methods that the police used to evict her from her home. "It
doesn't matter, women, children, and elderly people. They were all
beaten up. What we want to know is why is God doing this to us."
have also led to the disruption of scores of HIV/AIDS home-based
treatment and care programs around the country. The disruption of
treatment programs is likely to lead to resistance to HIV/AIDS drugs
and an increase in opportunistic infections. Many HIV/AIDS sufferers
are sleeping out in the open or have sought refuge with relatives
and charity organizations or moved out to the rural areas where
there is little access to antiretroviral drugs.
care worker informed Human Rights Watch that five of his clients
had died in the open in Mutare after being evicted from their homes,
"Out of my 20 clients, five have already died while sleeping
out in the open. We attended the funeral of one woman who died leaving
behind a five-year-old child. They were sleeping in the open. These
conditions are not good for already sick people."
government claims that the operation was meant to restore order
to the cities and dignity to the people. However, as the report
documents, there is no rationale that can justify the blatant violation
of human rights and the untold misery and chaos that the illegal
evictions and demolitions have caused.
human rights violations have taken place as a result of the mass
evictions and demolitions," said Kasambala. "The individuals
responsible for planning and executing Operation Murambatsvina must
be immediately brought to justice."
Watch called on the Zimbabwean government to provide immediate assistance,
including alternative accommodation, to all those that have been
affected by the evictions. The government must investigate the use
of excessive force by the police and other human rights abuses related
to the evictions and bring the perpetrators to justice. Human Rights
Watch also urged the Zimbabwean authorities to cooperate with local
and international humanitarian agencies and accept the terms of
the U.N. emergency appeal to ensure much needed assistance for thousands
of men, women and children.
General Kofi Annan should establish a Commission of Inquiry to identify
those responsible for planning and carrying out Operation Murambatsvina
that violated the human rights of hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans,
Human Rights Watch said.
community, especially regional bodies such as the African Union
and neighboring countries in the Southern African Development Community
should exert far more sustained political pressure on Harare to
end these abuses and ensure accountability for those responsible
for Operation Murambatsvina.
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