The IRCT expresses grave concern at the Zimbabwean government’s crackdown and calls on President Mnangagwa to immediately cease targeting human rights defenders and repressing citizens’ freedoms.
Photo: Media Centre - Zimbabwe
“We are deeply worried by the increasing reports of abductions, arbitrary arrests and torture of human rights activists and political opposition by security forces in Zimbabwe. It is evident that these flagrant violations are being used to silence any criticism and civil society in the country,” said Asger Kjaerum, Advocacy Director at IRCT.
Since the announcement of plans for anti-corruption protests for the 31st of July, human rights organisations report that police and security forces have been abducting, arbitrarily arresting and torturing activists, opposition groups, journalists, human rights defenders and anyone that dares speak out against the government. President Mnangagwa vowed to clampdown on activists and political opposition, labelling them “terrorist groupings”.
Dozens of activists have reported being threatened and assaulted whilst others have been forced into hiding. Human rights organisations are deeply concerned about activists facing prolonged detention in unsanitary and overcrowded facilities without adequate COVID-19 protection.
“Human rights defenders and civil society organisations are essential to ensuring a free, open and flourishing society. In the current climate, they cannot express themselves freely or do their work without fear of being dragged out of their homes, tortured and detained in overcrowded and unsanitary prisons,” said Asger Kjaerum, Advocacy Director at IRCT.
From 27 July, Zimbabwean police and security forces launched a sweeping operation in an attempt to pre-empt the protests and arrested dozens of human rights activists and organisers in the process. State agents also published an official list of activists who are wanted for questioning, prompting many to go into hiding for their own protection.
The IRCT welcomes the statement by the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights urging Zimbabwe to comply with international obligations and protect human rights and calls on the African Union, the Southern African Development Community and the international community to denounce the repression of human rights defenders.
The situation of political repression occurs in the backdrop of COVID-19, which has tipped the country’s health system into crisis. People are being denied health care due to hospitals being ill-equipped. Medical staff, including senior doctors went on strike due to dire compensation and inadequate protective equipment. Protests were organized across the country against the continued violations and corruption that is crippling the country’s economy and causing devastation to the healthcare system.