A Criminal State: A Statement and a Brief Chronicle of Events in Zimbabwe, 18 February – 22 March

Criminal State

Report Cover Photo: Protesters being dispersed with tear gas

The Solidarity Peace Trust condemns the brutal assault on opposition forces and the arrests of more than 50 activists that took place on 11 March 2007, in the context of Zimbabwean police preventing a peaceful prayer meeting from being convened.

The Trust condemns the killing of activist Gift Tandare by the police on 11 March. There should be a full inquiry into this killing, with culprits brought to justice. We further condemn the shooting of two mourners at the funeral wake of Tandare, and the heartless kidnapping of the corpse by the State for hurried burial.

It is unacceptable that detainees were brutally tortured in police custody, and were denied access to lawyers and medical treatment for two days. The delayed access to medical care, even after a High Court Order demanded access, has exacerbated some of the injuries of those tortured.

Torture is never justified. The international prohibition on torture is absolute and even a State of Emergency would not justify it. Those responsible for acts of torture should be brought to justice by the authorities in Zimbabwe, or in the international community.

The existence of a three month ban on public meetings of any kind is an unacceptable infringement on the constitutional rights of all Zimbabweans to freedom of expression, association and movement. These rights should be respected.

It is with shock we note the statement of President Mugabe that “police have the right to bash them”. Police have no right to “bash” anyone under any law in Zimbabwe, or in terms of any international conventions we are signatory to. The Trust notes that the State culture of impunity, which emanates from the highest office in the land, is generating a more general culture of violence. When a government allows impunity to its uniformed forces – when police officers who torture and murder are not brought to justice, and are in fact told they have a right to do this  – it is tragically predictable that people’s patience will run out and as anger and desperation rise, vigilante style violence will rise. Reprisals have already taken place, with a bus of mourners being vandalised, and three policewomen being tragically injured in their beds by petrol bombs. In Bulawayo an alleged attempt to derail a passenger train was thankfully unsuccessful. The situation is spiralling into worsening cycles of violence and repression. Innocent people are suffering in this cycle and will increasingly do so. This is to be deeply regretted.

The danger of escalating violence is a very deep concern to the Trust. We appeal to the government of Zimbabwe to end the impunity of its uniformed forces immediately, and to prosecute those who violate the rights of ordinary citizens. The government should allow the citizens of Zimbabwe to hold peaceful gatherings and should restore to them their constitutional rights to do so. The government should refrain from inciting its supporters to violence, as should all citizens of Zimbabwe.

Archbishop Pius Ncube
Board of Trustees

20 March 2007

The summary in this report is compiled from both independent and government newspapers as well as from statements released since the events of 11 March. It is a quick reference list and is given without comment or evaluation. It is intended to give space to the position of the government of Zimbabwe [Chronicle and Herald are State papers] as well as what could be called the “human rights” position.

A Criminal State: A Statement and a Brief Chronicle of Events in Zimbabwe   18 February – 22 March
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Sat, March 24 2007 » Church commentators, Human rights, Reports

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