Authorities in Zimbabwe have come out to accuse the country’s human rights body, Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) of being ‘partial and biased’ when it accused security forces of brutalizing opposition politicians, activists and residents in the country.
In a report this week, ZHRC stated that there was no justifiable reason for the military and Police to beat and torture ordinary citizens, as well as entering into their houses without permission.
The report was released after days of a brutal crackdown by government on protests which started on January 14, against the hiked fuel prices. Government had announced a 150% increase in prices.
Protesters allegedly destroyed property including a Police station, Police vehicles and destroyed shops, as well as vandalizing and looting. They also placed barricades on roads to stop people from going to work.
This prompted a brutal response by the security forces who allegedly shot into crowds, beat and arrested suspects. Some people have accused them of raping children and women.
According to Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, 12 people have been killed and 78 treated for gunshot injuries. The body says it has registered 240 incidents of assault and torture.
More than 700 people remain incarcerated.
Although the human rights body acknowledged the occurrence of the above, it stated that the brutality by government was not necessary.
“This however did not justify torture of citizens by the security forces as the right to freedom from torture is one right that cannot be derogated from under any circumstances,” the Commission said.
“The findings reveal that in the areas monitored, the Police and soldiers entered into the homes, premises and property of some of the complainants in the middle of the night without their permission. Their doors were broken into and their windows and doors vandalised by the police and the soldiers.
“This violated their right to privacy which protects them from arbitrary searches of their homes and unlawful entry into their home, premises or property under Section 57 of the Constitution,” the Commission said.
But, on Friday evening, Zimbabwe’s Information Minister, Ziyambi Ziyambi, said the accusations were false and biased.
“There is an expectation that they would be impartial and speak without bias. Their report falls short of that standard and it is based on not on thorough investigations,” Ziyambi said on Friday.
He said government expects constitutional commissions not to be polarizing by making broad and “unsubstantiated accusations without caveats or evidence”.
On the brutality by the military, Ziyambi said that any cases of misconduct will be investigated and that the law will take its course. He said members of public with complaints can report them to Police and that they will be treated with impartiality.
Meanwhile, the Zimbabwe Law Society has already threatened to withdraw from all cases, saying the justice in the country is at stake.
They are among other things, accusing government of mass and fast tracked trials, routine denial of bail to suspects, trial and detention of juveniles and denial of medication to suspects.