BY MIRIAM MANGWAYA
A HUMAN rights organisation has raised a red flag over arbitrary arrests, torture and assault perpetrated by security agents after it recorded 47 detentions of civilians and 35 cases of torture in its latest report on Friday.
The report by the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum which covers incidents that happened between January 5 and April 23 this year also revealed that one person in Gweru was a victim of extra-judicial killing, while seven journalists were also attacked by security officers while performing their duties.
It stated that the security officers violated constitutional rights of the victims under the guise of enforcing COVID-19 regulations.
“The human rights terrain in the country also continues to deteriorate with the arrest, conviction and torture of dissenting voices, on seemingly frivolous charges being observed,” the forum said.
“Law enforcement officers have continued to adopt an adversarial approach against civilians under the guise of enforcing COVID-19 regulations. Some of the reports also point to an increase in cases of soliciting for bribes by law enforcement officers.”
The human rights watchdog recorded instances where police officers demanded fines in United States dollars for violating COVID-19 regulations, but did not issue receipts.
“In one of the incidents in Marondera, an individual, who was caught without wearing a face mask, was asked to pay a US$10 fine by the police although they were not given a corresponding receipt. The infamous denial of bail to human rights defenders and dissenting voices which has become commonplace continued over the past week.”
MDC Alliance Harare West legislator Joanah Mamombe and youth leader Cecilia Chimbiri were last week denied bail on charges of undermining police authority.
Two other MDC Alliance activists, Lengwani Mavhunga and Munyaradzi Mafararikwa were also denied bail on charges of allegedly obstructing the free movement of traffic. The duo claimed in court that they sustained injuries from torture while in police custody.
The forum warned that the state of human rights in the country was likely to deteriorate further after Constitution Amendment Bill Number 2 sailed through Parliament last week, which undermines the involvement of the electorate in governance issues.
“The Bill is manifestly conspicuous in its intentions to consolidate and solidify President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s positions ahead of the 2023 elections and beyond. This is derived from key proposed changes such as removing the running mate clause, extending the tenure of judges among other key changes.”
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