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Continued impunity by state-sanctioned actors
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR)
January 12, 2007

Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) strongly deplores the continuing impunity in respect of unlawful actions by state and state-linked actors in Zimbabwe against legitimate human rights defenders.

On Wednesday the 10th of January 2007, two members of the Combined Harare Residents Association (CHRA) were peacefully engaged in publicising a Residents' Meeting meant to discuss the recent budget by the Commission running the affairs of the City of Harare when they were accosted by two individuals who stated that they were youths aligned to the ruling ZANU PF party. They stated that they were unhappy with the actions of the two persons and asked them to accompany them to the party's provincial offices near the Fourth Street bus terminus. There they found a group of around fifty (50) youths waiting. The ruling party youths took them into a hall and there viciously assaulted them using broomsticks, clenched fists, open palms and booted feet for over an hour. After this, the youths called the police. A member of the Police Internal Security Intelligence (PISI) took the CHRA members to the Harare Central Police Station where he viciously assaulted them with open palms and made them take their shirts off before making them pay admission of guilt fines for an alleged violation of section 46 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act.

It is easy to note and duly condemn the impunity of the non-state actors. However, it is clear that this impunity is a result of the conduct of state agencies which have condoned it. In spite of the assaults being pointed out to him at the point when he took them to the police station, the PISI detail took no action against the ZANU PF youth militia and instead chose to add his portion of assault to the victims and take spurious extortive action against them. Such a situation reduces Zimbabwe into an anarchical state where the law does not apply equally. It makes a mockery of all democratic pretensions that the state of Zimbabwe might purport to harbour.

All the more notable is that during the assault, the assailants stated clearly that they did not appreciate the fact that the victims' organisation, CHRA, objected to the continued reappointment of the Commission running the affairs of the City of Harare.

The state reneges on its obligation to protect the rights of the citizenry when it allows and even aids such undermining of fundamental freedoms of expression and association of human rights defenders who are entitled to express their displeasure at continued unlawfulness and lack of accountability by local authorities. That the police serving the nation chose to abet and extend a kidnapping and assault such as above presents a situation where militias now command the law enforcement agencies. Such partisanship and lawlessness should not be condoned.

ZLHR therefore wishes to reiterate the fundamental importance of equality before the law in any legal system which claims to be non-anarchical and rooted in the rule of law. Also of major significance is the non-derogable freedom from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. These are rights protected at international law as well as in the Constitution of Zimbabwe. It is an unfortunate short-coming requiring urgent remedial action.

ZLHR therefore repeats its calls for the disbanding of ruling party youth militias which continue to be used for so-called policing and other activities and in fact act to undermine rights of any perceived policy critics of government.

We further call upon the government of Zimbabwe to:

a) cause investigations to be carried out into this kidnapping and these assaults and injuries to persons simply and legitimately seeking to hold lawful participatory meetings and further that there be criminal prosecutions in this regard
b) ensure that they protect persons from any interference in the exercise of their rights by any militia of whatever political inclination
c) ensure that the actions of the police force are not defined and controlled by illegitimate and partisan institutions such as a political party's youths
d) ensure that disciplinary action is taken forthwith against police officers who engage in obviously unlawful actions against the public such as the assault above-mentioned

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