Rights commission blasts army for using live bullets on civilians

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By Staff Reporter

THE Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) has urged the army to desist from using live ammunition during public protests by civilians while also urging the compensation of survivors of the August 1 post-election violence.

Six civilians were shot dead while dozens were injured during wild protests that rocked central Harare on the fateful day with the military fingered for causing the deaths.

Army commanders have admitted their troops used live ammunition to fire in the air but have denied any of their charges fired the fatal bullets.

In a damning report on the period prior, during and after the July 30 elections, the rights body condemned Zimbabwean authorities for failure to investigate complaints of army beatings on civilians in some of Harare’s high density suburbs days after the fateful protests.

“Following the demonstration and the subsequent violence, ZHRC received complaints of the military allegedly harassing and beating up civilians in some suburbs in Harare.

“The commission went to assess the situation in Kuwadzana and Warren Park in Harare as well as in Chitungwiza following these reports and confirmed that indeed members of the public were being assaulted by people in military uniforms who were moving around the suburbs in military trucks.

“The commission was concerned with the fact that no government office took responsibility over the deployment of soldiers in the communities. On the contrary, the Zimbabwe defence forces and the government denied the deployments.

“This posed an even bigger danger to the communities as it appeared that the ‘soldiers’ continued to inflict harm and injury to civilians without being accountable to anyone,” said the rights commission.

Added the rights authority, “The commission expected prompt investigation and prosecution by the relevant authorities if it was true that the assailants were imposters or rogue agents acting without official deployment.

“The families lost their loved ones and those injured should be adequately compensated and assisted by the state.”

Said the commission in its recommendations, “The army should refrain from use of live ammunition on civilians during demonstrations.”

The calls for a stop in the use of live ammunition, coupled with those urging authorities to compensate victis of the August violence by the country’s top rights authority, follow similar ones by the Kgalema Motlanthe led Commission of Inquiry into the August 1 violence in its final report.