Relatives of August 1 army shooting victims, witnesses claim victimisation by state agents

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By Anna Chibamu

FAMILIES of those killed by the army in the August 1 post-election violence, witnesses and rights defenders are reportedly living in fear for their lives amid reports some of them were being victimised by suspected state agents.

This comes as the country has just opened a probe into the widely condemned incidences.

The Zimbabwe Human Rights (NGO) Forum said at a briefing on Friday that some of those targeted were being visited at their homes and offices by suspected state agents.

“Since August 1, victims of the human rights violations, families of the deceased and human rights defenders have reported victimisation by State agents,” said Forum chair Jestina Mukoko.

“A number of civil society organisations (CSOs) reported night visits and office raids by suspected state agents.

“With these reports in mind, it becomes necessary to put in place witness and victim protection measures to ensure that the State which is accused of being one of the actors in the August 1 killings, does not interfere with evidence and due process.”

Six civilians were shot dead by the army as wild protests rocked central Harare August 1 with alleged MDC supporters linked to the skirmishes.

The opposition supporters were angered by what they strongly felt was poll theft by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission in the ruling Zanu PF’s favour. Zanu PF romped to a disputed two thirds majority in a poll which saw President Emmerson Mnangagwa scrap through with a narrow 50,8 percent of the national vote.

Mnangagwa has since appointed a seven-member commission of inquiry into the disturbances, with former South African President Kgalema Montlanthe leading the probe.

There are fears among rights organisations the Zanu PF regime may try to manipulate the process to cover up its own transgressions into the disturbances while pinning blame on its MDC rivals.

Rights groups have demanded transparency into the probe.

The Forum, which comprises some 22 rights based NGOs, has moved to demand the safety of witnesses to what has been described as state brutality.

“The expectations spell out the minimum standards by which the human rights community expects the Commission to uphold as it goes by its work.

“We put emphasis on the need to prioritise the security of the victims, witnesses and human rights defenders who will interact with the Commission.

“This goes beyond mere declaration that witnesses are safe, but the measures must be communicated to the witnesses.”

Among some of the demands by the rights groups are transparency on how the commission was operating, respect for confidentiality, physical protection and respect for compassion.

The rights groups also want the probe to consider gender sensitivity, psychological protection, equality and fairness, and due consideration to persons with special needs.

In past interviews with the media, Mnangagwa has described the disturbances as regrettable while promising an open probe into the violence.