AI demands ‘impartial’ investigations into August 1 army killings

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By Anna Chibamu

WORLD rights group, Amnesty International (AI) has demanded an impartial investigation into the army killing of six civilians and the injury of many more during the ill-fated August 1, 2018 post-election violence in Harare’s CBD.

In a statement released on Thursday, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Southern Africa Muleya Mwananyanda said the victims of the country’s bloodiest election related violence since the 2008 presidential run-off poll were yet to get justice.

Thursday marked exactly one year since soldiers deployed in central Harare to quell angry protests over elections opened fire on protesters and bystanders, killing six.

“Authorities must institute a thorough, effective and impartial investigations into the killings of protesters, some of whom were killed while fleeing, with those found to have acted unlawfully brought to justice through fair trials,” Mwananyanda said.

Following the shootings, President Emmerson Mnangagwa appointed a Commission of Inquiry into the disturbances but the Kgalema Motlanthe led Commission refrained in its report from directly blaming the military for the killings.

Many neutrals felt the Motlanthe Commission became compromised from the moment it accepted to undertake a task from a leader who had everything to lose if his regime was fingered in the disturbances.

Said Mwananyanda, “Zimbabwean authorities should under no circumstances allow further impunity and cover-ups for the killings.

“If Zimbabwe is to become a human rights respecting society, no one, including the army, should be untouchable for violating human rights.”

According to the rights group, the army was illegally deployed and used live ammunition to disperse protesters.

The widely condemned incident was provoked by apparent delays in the release of the election results by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission.

“The tragedy of the post-election shootings is compounded by the fact that no one in the army suspected to be responsible for the bloodshed has been held to account for these brutal killings.

“This is despite the fact that the alleged perpetrators have been identified through the media and social media videos and pictures,” Mwananyanda said.

“If the Zimbabwean government wants to demonstrate that it is committed to human rights, it needs to ensure that the wheels of justice start turning faster than they have done over the past year.”

Amnesty International said if there were violent protests in any given situation, police should take the lead in taking corrective measures using minimum force.

“The Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) confirmed that three people were killed when soldiers fired at demonstrators as they ran away. The number was later confirmed to be six. Some of the injured and dead were shot from the back.

“The army also ordered journalists covering the protests to switch off their video recording equipment and cameras,” said the group.