Back to Index
guards the guards?" Violations by Law Enforcement Agencies
in Zimbabwe, 2000-2006
Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum
Download this document
PDF version (474KB)
If you do not have the free Acrobat reader
on your computer, download it from the Adobe website by clicking
Zimbabwe’s police are major perpetrators of human rights abuses,
according to data collected by the Human Rights NGO Forum.
Since 2000 the Zimbabwe Republic Police
have changed from a generally professional force respected for even-handedly
enforcing the country’s laws to a force that used by the ruling
party, Zanu-PF, to suppress all perceived opposition and retain
The police have been named as torturers
and police premises as places of torture and other abuse in hundreds
of cases recorded by the Human Rights Forum.
Torture by police is often carried
out by senior police officers. Since 2000 officers of the rank of
sergeant or above have been named as perpetrating torture in 59
cases. Constables have been identified in 91 cases. This refutes
government excuses that occasional abuses are carried out a few
‘over-zealous’ low-level officers.
Increased brutality is seen when police
operate in conjunction with the army.
The report lists several statements
by President Robert Mugabe and cabinet ministers in which the law
enforcement agencies are encouraged to inflict abuses. Such statements
have encouraged a climate of abuse where violations are condoned
and even state-sponsored, according to the report.
The politicised police force has often
refused the protection of the law to those identified as members
of the opposition or otherwise hostile to Zanu-PF. For these people
the law enforcement agencies have become "instruments of violence
against them rather than an institution that offers them protection,"
states the report.
The police and other perpetrators of
abuses often operate with impunity, not facing any legal responsibility
for their actions. This impunity allows abuses to continue.
A total of 20,624 violations of human
rights have been recorded in Zimbabwe since July, 2001, when the
Human Rights Forum began publishing statistics. These are the number
of cases, and in many there are several people abused, so the number
of individuals suffering abuse could be considerably higher. Since
2004, the number of total abuses has increased, from 2,656 in 2004,
to 4,170 in 2005 and 5,063 in 2006. The 2006 figures do not include
cases from October, November or December, so the year-end total
is expected to be even higher.
"2006 may record nearly 7,000
violations by the end of the year," warned the report. "Most
disturbing is that in 2006 torture has again increased markedly."
There has also been "enormous increases in unlawful arrest
and detention and interference with freedoms, which largely correspond
to the promulgation and use of the Public
Order and Security Act (Posa).
More than 3,200 cases of torture have
been recorded since 2001. The highest number of torture cases, 1,172,
was recorded in 2002, the year of presidential elections. Reported
cases of torture increased from 136 in 2005 to 335 in 2006. Again,
the 2006 figure does not include incidents for October, November
Abuses by police and other state agents
(army and CIO) have increased in 2006. "The involvement of
state agents in the alleged perpetration of gross human rights violations
has greatly increased, with the torture of members of the Zimbabwe
Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) being perhaps the most egregious
recent example," states the report.
Despite numerous complaints and reports,
by the Human Rights Forum and other organizations, the government
has taken "little remedial or preventative action. The Zimbabwe
Republic Police continue to be involved in human rights violations,
and, if anything, the abuses have become worse in the past three
In the report, the Human Rights NGO
Forum urged the government of Zimbabwe to fulfill its constitutional
obligations to investigate allegations of abuses. "Instead
of denying that any such abuses are taking place, and accused the
human rights organisations of fabricating them, the government should
properly investigate all these allegations and, where they are found
to have substance, ensure that the perpetrators are brought before
The report also calls on the United
Nations, the African Union and the Southern African Development
Community to examine the allegations of torture by police and other
human rights violations. "The international community should
carry out independent, impartial investigations into human rights
violations and should work with Zimbabwean civil society in such
The report concludes that a combination
of government, regional and international action is needed to reform
the Zimbabwe police so it becomes an accountable force offers all
citizens protection under the rule of law.
the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum fact
Please credit www.kubatana.net if you make use of material from this website.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License unless stated otherwise.