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Zimbabwe: IBAHRI calls for action to end police abuses
International Bar Association
November 07, 2007

Zimbabwean authorities must take immediate steps to end abuses of police power, the International Bar Association's Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) says in a new report released today. Entitled, 'Partisan Policing: An obstacle to human rights and democracy in Zimbabwe,' the report asserts that police routinely commit serious violations of human rights, subvert the rule of law and play a blatantly partisan role.

The report, which follows a visit to Zimbabwe by a high-level delegation of legal experts, cites wide abuses by the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) that range from torture and arbitrary arrests to disobedience of court orders and beatings and intimidation of lawyers. The delegation interviewed representatives of government, the legal profession and non-governmental organisations and gathered documentary evidence.

Among the key findings of the report are that most of the victims of police abuses are individuals deemed to be government opponents or critics and that those responsible for abuses have been allowed to benefit from almost absolute impunity. 'We found incontrovertible evidence of police abuses being brought to the attention of the courts and senior government officials, yet those responsible continue to benefit from impunity,' said Professor DJ Titus, a member of the IBAHRI delegation to Zimbabwe. 'The failure to investigate and prosecute these serious violations of human rights shifts responsibility to the highest levels of government.'

The report also offers a disturbing portrait of judicial inaction in the face of flagrant police abuses, charging that there is 'complacency on the part of the courts in holding police to account.' It concludes that the contempt shown by the police for judicial authority is evidence of a 'grave constitutional crisis' and a threat to 'the very foundations of the rule of law and the administration of justice.'

The 59-page report by the IBAHRI recommends measures to be taken by the Zimbabwean authorities in order to curtail abuses and end impunity. It concludes with recommendations to the international community, including a call to the Southern African Development Community (SADC), to ensure that those engaged in the regional effort to resolve Zimbabwe's political crisis tackle the problem of police abuses.

'At a time when leaders of the SADC region are speaking about the need to resolve the crisis in Zimbabwe through democratic elections, the brazen partisanship and lawlessness of the police gives rise to the concern that police officers will be used to subvert the electoral process,' remarked Professor Titus. He added, 'Without accountable, impartial policing that protects human rights, it will be difficult and perhaps impossible for the citizens of Zimbabwe to participate freely in any democratic processes, including elections.'

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