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This article participates on the following special index pages:
2008 harmonised elections - Index of articles
to rape: Sexual terror in Mugabe's Zimbabwe
December 10, 2009
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In the weeks
immediately after the June 2008 presidential elections in Zimbabwe,
AIDS-Free World received an urgent call from a Harare-based organization.
The human rights activists were overwhelmed with reports from women
associated with the opposition party, Movement for Democratic Change
(MDC), who had been raped by members of President Robert Mugabe's
ruling party, ZANU-PF, in a vicious campaign to intimidate voters
and emerge victorious in the presidential election. In response,
AIDS-Free World undertook a series of investigative trips to the
region with teams of lawyers to interview survivors of this violence.
from the testimony was a brutal, orchestrated campaign of rape and
torture perpetrated by Mugabe's ZANU-PF youth militia, agents
of Zimbabwe's Central Intelligence Organization (CIO), and
people who identify themselves as veterans of the liberation war
(known as war veterans) affiliated with ZANU-PF. The exceptionally
violent rapes, as described by women from every province of Zimbabwe,
were often nearly fatal. Survivors' terror was prolonged by
fears that their attackers were among the 15% of adults infected
with HIV in Zimbabwe.
disturbing accounts, told to the AIDS-Free World legal team over
the course of more than 300 hours of interviews and detailed in
this report, demonstrate that the rape campaign waged by ZANU-PF
in Zimbabwe was both widespread and systematic. Every victim supported
the MDC, and in every attack the perpetrators were clearly identifiable
as ZANU-PF youth militia and war veterans. Striking patterns recurred
throughout the testimonies of the seventy survivors and two witnesses
and cannot be coincidental.
for these crimes is critical and serves several purposes: it punishes
the perpetrators; it provides justice for the victims; it pierces
the veil of impunity that protects Zimbabwe's highest officials
and enables them to maintain their abusive regime at the cost of
women's lives and health; and it deters future rapes.
both the police and the legal infrastructure are so seriously compromised
as to make justice for systematic rape inside the country impossible
at this time. Furthermore, existing Zimbabwe law does not allow
for the prosecution of rape as an international crime, perpetrated
in a systematic fashion.
possibilities do exist for legal accountability in the region, and
are summarized in this report. The principles of command responsibility
and universal jurisdiction, the powers of regional tribunals, and
the attention of international courts and commissions are all potential
avenues for justice that have yet to be pursued. Several bodies
could and should also take action against Zimbabwe to restore justice
and prevent future crimes against humanity.
regional neighbors, especially the southern African countries to
which so many rape survivors have fled, must take responsibility
for providing protection and assistance to the victims. If survivors
cannot be assured of their security, they will not be able to recover
and they will not be able to come forward and testify about the
crimes they have endured.
The next elections
in Zimbabwe are just around the corner, and ZANU-PF is already gearing
up for its next campaign of sexual terror. This report asserts that
Mugabe and his henchmen can and must be brought to justice. Continued
impunity will be a green light for the next rape campaign, and the
women of Zimbabwe—and the southern African region—will
pay the price.
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