Previous reports compiled by the same authors in conjunction with Physicians For Human Rights Denmark (PHR-DK), detailed cases of torture in the western part of Zimbabwe in January, May and November 2002. In these three reports, war veterans and militia were identified as the main perpetrators of violence, although cases of police torture were recorded.
The previous PHR-DK reports showed a link between election campaigns in Zimbabwe and state organised violence. In 2002, an increase in politically motivated violence coincided with the Presidential election, Parliamentary by-elections and the Rural District Council elections.
Scope of the report
It should be noted that the current report documents violence only in the City of Bulawayo, and only those cases brought to the attention of the health professionals who authored the report. State organised violence occurred on a massive scale in many parts of Zimbabwe during the month of March 2003. The current report should therefore be considered as an indicator of recent trends in organised violence in one region of the country, and not as a comprehensive document.
We document in this report that mutilating torture beyond any doubt is practised by government supporters against their political opponents in Zimbabwe in 2003.
The fact that perpetrators do not care whether they torture people who can identify them, or whether their acts of torture or ill treatment leave marks that can easily be recognised as caused by torture, underlines a clear assumption on their part of impunity. This assumption appears well founded: no prosecutions against perpetrators have been made in any of the cases of torture and ill treatment that we documented, and this points to a deliberate policy by the authorities.
The report reflects new trends in relation to violence in Zimbabwe.
Every case reported to human rights health professionals in Bulawayo in the last month implicated the police as perpetrators of the alleged torture. Furthermore, every case of abuse took place in the context of peaceful public protest. Approximately 30% of the victims in this report are women, indicating a growing willingness on the part of the authorities to torture women.
This may reflect a growing willingness on the part of ordinary Zimbabweans, in particular women, to take part in such protests, and more blatant attempts by the state to prevent peaceful protest.
World Cricket Cup and the right to peaceful protest
The current report establishes beyond any doubt that the Zimbabwean government and the Zimbabwe Republic Police did not allow peaceful protest by those citizens of Zimbabwe who felt that there should be no normal sport in an abnormal society. The current authors are aware of 15 detentions in relation to the first WCC match in Bulawayo, of 42 detentions at the second and of 23 detentions at the third. All those detained have reported torture or severe ill treatment. Furthermore, detentions and torture took place during other peaceful protests during the February and March, and not only in relation to the cricket.
The increase in police torture is a cause for deep concern. The failure of the Zimbabwean authorities to tolerate peaceful protest, whether in the form of public protest or mass stay aways is alarming. It is the conclusion of the authors that state repression is worsening and becoming more blatant. It is our prediction that the human rights situation in Zimbabwe will deteriorate further in the next three months.