Impunity blamed as US says Zimbabwe among worst human rights violators

March 31, 2021

The latest US Human Rights Report has placed Zimbabwe among the worst 200 violators.  

Brenna Matendere

The report that covers 2020 was released by US department on global human rights on Tuesday, 30 March 2021 and accuses Harare of impunity.

 “Impunity for politically-motivated violence remained a problem. The government did not establish an independent complaints mechanism to investigate allegations of security force misconduct as called for in the constitution,” the report stated.

“Investigations continued into violence from previous years, including state-sponsored violence that resulted in the deaths of 17 civilians in January-February 2019 and seven during post-election violence in 2018. As of year’s end, there were no arrests or charges in the cases.”

Zimbabwe’s most trusted international allies—China and Russia—were among the 200 countries that the report recorded as having the worst human rights violations.

The two have in the past vetoed United Nations attempts to put Zimbabwe on sanctions for human rights abuses.

The report accuses Zimbabwe of “significant human rights issues, including unlawful or arbitrary killings of civilians by security forces; torture and arbitrary detention by security forces; cases of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions (and)…and arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy.”

On 6 March 2022, US president, Joseph Biden, renewed restrictive measures against 83 Zanu PF officials and 37 companies accused of human rights abuses, undemocratic practices and bad governance.

The measures were first put in place in 2003 through Executive Order 13288.

That was after the late Robert Mugabe, then president, cracked down on the opposition after the 2000 parliamentary elections and ahead of the 2002 presidential poll that pitted him against a popular Morgan Tsvangirai who passed away in February 2018.

The report  also noted “serious problems with the independence of the judiciary; government restrictions on free expression, press, and the internet, including violence, threats of violence, or unjustified arrests or prosecutions against journalists, censorship, site blocking, and the existence of criminal libel laws.”

The army and police crushed citizen protests in early 2020 when people demonstrated against a steep fuel hike.

Opposition members—Harare West MP Joanna Mamombe, Cecilia Chimbiri, and Netsai Marova—have been abducted and allegedly tortured by suspected state security agents. They are currently in remand prison.

Journalist Hopewell Chin’ono was also arrested after exposing corruption involving US$60 million in the procurement of Personal Protective Equipment, a scandal that led to the removal of former Health minister, Obadiah Moyo who is currently being tried for alleged abuse of office.

Zimbabwe National Students Union president Takudzwa Ngadziore was severely assaulted in the year under review by suspected Ferret Force agents that comprise military and central intelligence, after leading protests against abduction of a student in Bulawayo.

Mdudusi Mathuthu, the editor of ZimLive, an online muckracker, fled the country last year after his house was raided by suspected state security agents who accused him of getting leaks from a top government official.

In a statement soon after the 2020 Human Rights Report was released, US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, said the Biden administration would push for reforms in Zimbabwe to end the culture of impunity.

“State-sanctioned violence in Zimbabwe against civil society activists, labour leaders, and opposition members continued a culture of impunity, and LGBTQI+ persons continued to be vulnerable to violence, discrimination, and harassment due to criminalization and stigma associated with same-sex sexual conduct,” he said.

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