By Staff Reporter
SOUTH African President Cyril Ramaphosa and other regional leader must force their Zimbabwean counterpart President Emmerson Mnangagwa to allow for the prosecution of soldiers responsible for the killing of civilians in January, a rights watchdog has said.
In a statement this week as Ramaphosa visited Zimbabwe to find ways of helping his country’s northern neighbour deal with a debilitating economic crisis, Human Rights Watch said it had irrefutable evidence the army had deliberately killed protestors.
Human Rights Watch also released a video documenting the excessive and disproportionate force Zimbabwe security forces used to crush nationwide protests from January 14 to 16 and in their aftermath. The protests had been organized by labour federation the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions to register its disgust at the decision by Mnangagwa to raise fuel prices by 150%.
“There is irrefutable evidence that Zimbabwe security forces carried out horrific abuses, including killings, torture and rape, during and since the January protests,” said Dewa Mavhinga, southern Africa director at Human Rights Watch.
“Ramaphosa and other regional leaders should press Zimbabwe to halt security forces’ abuses and individually prosecute and punish those responsible. Prosecution and accountability for past and ongoing abuses will help end impunity and vicious cycles of violence in Zimbabwe.”
A local rights group, the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights reported that police and army personnel carried out indiscriminate door-to-door raids, forcibly entering homes by breaking doors and windows.
Human Rights Watch found that the security forces rounded up and detained hundreds of people, many of whom were brought before the courts on charges of public violence and criminal nuisance, most of whom remain in detention.
Human Rights Watch has reported that the Zimbabwe security forces appeared to use the crackdown to commit numerous cases of rape.
Eight women said they were raped by uniformed and armed soldiers and police. A 46-year-old woman said nine armed men, six in army uniform, came to her house in Epworth on January 15 and two soldiers raped her in front of her teenage son. At the local police station, the police refused to record her complaint, telling her, “these things are happening all over the country, so we cannot receive your report or open a police case docket.”
The Zimbabwe Peace Project were also concerned about the re-emergence of torture bases in Zimbabwe, allegedly run by Zanu-PF to target opponents of the government of Mnangagwa.
Ramaphosa is leading the chorus by African leaders demanding the removal of sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe by the US and the European Union.