Zimbabwe Group Accuses Security Forces of Torturing Protesters

(Bloomberg) -- Zimbabwe’s police and army used “systematic torture” against mainly young men during a week of often violent anti-government protests last week, the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission said.

At least 12 people died in clashes between the security forces and demonstrators who took to the streets last week after the government more than doubled fuel prices. The ZHRC, a constitutional body established by government, began an inquiry into the violence last week.

Police and army personnel used excessive force against civilians in their response to the protests, the commission said in a statement emailed Tuesday from the capital, Harare. The security forces targeted young men living close to areas barricaded or torched by protesters, it said.

“They would arrive at people’s houses at night or in the early hours of the day and ask all men to go outside and lie on the ground,” the commission said. “They would then beat up all the men, including boys as young as 11 years.”

Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Tuesday criticized security forces he said had been responsible for violence and misconduct and said they would be investigated.

Members of civil society groups and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, including lawmakers, were among those beaten and arrested, it said. Many people were beaten on the soles of their feet, it said.

The police failed to cooperate with the ZHRC’s investigation, it said.

“Unfortunately, the police officers in charge did not seem to understand the mandate of the ZHRC and after referring the officers to different police officials, denied them the relevant information or entry into holding cells,” the report says.

Gunshot Wounds

Calls to police spokeswoman Charity Charamba weren’t answered when Bloomberg sought comment.

The ZHRC said it has verified eight deaths in last weeks protests, mainly as a result of gunshot wounds. Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum and Zimbabwe Doctors for Human Rights has verified 12 deaths.

Many arrests were illegal because police officers refused to identify themselves or because suspects were held in cells without legal representation for more than 48 hours, the commission said. Arrests made by soldiers are all illegal because they don’t have the power of arrest in the country, it said.

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