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Legal Monitor - Issue 62
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR)

September 13, 2010

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Brutal police unleash dogs

Several farm residents at a plot just outside Harare are nursing injuries after police used vicious dogs to induce chicken stealing confessions.

Police officers stationed at Marlborough and Ashdown Park Police Station set dogs on Temba Dzimwasa, Ruth Nyarumwe and Vusa Dzimwasa, all residents of Globetrotter, a periurban settlement located just outside Harare.

The police accused the residents of stealing chickens from a neighbour's residence. The trio deny the charge.

In an attempt to justify the unleashing of dogs on the three residents Constable Muziri claimed that the residents had "obstructed the police in a confirmed struggle to effect searches and arrest".

The residents, who were arrested and detained from about 09:00hrs to around 15:30hrs last Thursday at Marlborough Police Station without any charges being preferred against them were freed after the intervention of lawyers from Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR).

The residents told The Legal Monitor that officers from the dog section unleashed police dogs on them after they requested to be furnished with search warrants by the police who had stormed into their houses and accused them of stealing chickens at a nearby plot.

The police details forced open the residents' premises and led their dogs into their houses. When the residents questioned the police action, a female police officer only identified as Sergeant Nyamasotera unleashed her police dog on the residents and at the same time called for more dogs to be brought from the police dog section at Ashdown Park Police Station, alleging that she was facing resistance while conducting her searches.

The police dogs bit Vusa and Themba on the neck, arm, thigh, ankle and legs.

Two male police officers who joined Sergeant Nyamasotera as reinforcements immediately pounced upon him, one of whom had a police dog.

Thembawas assaulted with clenched fists and booted feet all over his body, including on his ribs.

Amidst the assaults, the police dog was also unleashed on him and he got bit on several parts of his anatomy including on the thigh and on the neck.

Nyarumwe, another resident at Globe Trotter, was accused by a male police officer of having refused to open her door to facilitate police investigations. Nyarumwe told The Legal Monitor that the male police officer lifted her skirt, exposing her body which led to her screaming in protest. As a result of this, the police officer assaulted her heavily using open hands and clenched fists and she sustained injuries to her ear.

Vusa has since lodged a complaint against the police under RRB No. 0987725 for the assaults perpetrated against him and was given a request for medical report by the police.

Lieutenant Zvenyika Hlatshwayo, a doctor at Parirenyatwa Hospital who examined Vusa on Friday treated him for "lacerations on his right ankle, bruises on the lateral side of the right ankle probably caused by a dog bite."

Hlatshwayo prescribed anti-tetanus and anti-rabies vaccines and antibiotics to treat Vusa's injuries.

The Legal Monitor could not access medical reports for Themba and Nyarumwe by Friday to determine the extent of their injuries as they rushed to lodge them with the police after examination.

The police reportedly arrested a security guard for the alleged theft and detained him at Marlborough Police Station.

ZLHR Public Interest Litigation (PIL) projects manager Rangu Nyamurundira condemned the police brutality. "The conduct of the police in this case clearly indicates the impunity with which the human rights of ordinary Zimbabwean citizens continue to be so grossly violated by members of the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP)," said Nyamurundira.

Indeed to ensure any professionalism by the ZRP, especially regarding their respect for human rights, there is urgent need for the responsible Ministry to begin implementing provisions within the Inter-Party Agreement (IPA) that requires the police to receive training in matters of human rights," he added.

Under the IPA, President Robert Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and his deputy Arthur Mutambara undertook to teach the police and other uniformed forces subjects on human rights so that they fully understand and appreciate their roles in a multi-party democratic system. But there has been no indication of political will to begin to reform the ZRP and ensure that incidents where the police wantonly use excessive force and act unlawfully when dealing with any citizen are avoided.

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