Memorandum from Amnesty International
1. In recent years, including the period
of the parliamentary elections in 2000 and the run-up to the presidential
elections in 2002, Amnesty International has reported cases of
serious human rights violations in Zimbabwe including extrajudicial
executions, "disappearances", abduction and torture
of those identified as or perceived to be opposition supporters.
Many of these human rights violations were carried out by state
sponsored militias. Amnesty International uses the term "state-sponsored
militia" to indicate that the violations are being carried
out as a deliberate government policy, publicly encouraged and
supported by the state with resources. These militias are composed
of supporters of the Zimbabwe African National UnionPatriotic
Front (Zanu-PF), members of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War
Veterans Association and unemployed youth. These groups have often
been organised, transported and supported by the Zimbabwe Republic
Police, the national army, the secret police of the Central Intelligence
Organisation (CIO) and other state agents.
2. Amnesty International has also reported
its concerns that the professionalism and impartiality of the
Zimbabwe Republic Police had been eroded and the independence
of the judiciary undermined in an attempt to ensure impunity for
perpetrators of state-sponsored human rights violations.
3. Amnesty International has continued to
carefully monitor the situation in Zimbabwe since an Amnesty International
delegation last visited Zimbabwe between 7 and 16 March 2002.
Zimbabwe was suspended from the Commonwealth in March 2002. Amnesty
International has no position on the suspension of Zimbabwe, but
has serious concerns regarding human rights violations both during
and since the presidential elections on March 9, 10 and 11 2002.
THE 2002 PRESIDENTIAL
4. The Amnesty International delegation
that visited Zimbabwe between 7 and 16 March 2002 documented a
systematic, countrywide attempt by supporters of the ruling Zanu-PF
to prevent opposition polling agents and independent local poll
monitors from reaching their assigned stations on 9 March, the
first day of polling in the presidential elections. Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC) party representatives were beaten, abducted
and chased away in Zvimba North; at Chininga Polling Station MDC
representatives arriving on the eve of the polls were abducted
and tortured. In Marondera West, roadblocks stopped the transport
of MDC polling agents and shots were fired at vehicles. In Mutoko
South, members of a militia abducted 60 polling agents on the
way to their stations. In several incidences MDC vehicles used
to deploy agents were attacked and in one instance fire-bombed
and destroyed in the presence of police officers.
5. The Zimbabwe Republic Police continued
to exhibit political bias in the manner in which they carried
out their duties. The SADC Parliamentary Forum Election Observation
Mission concluded in a statement on 13 March 2002 that ".
. .there are significant claims that the police have been partisan
in handling the political situation when called upon to intervene."
The Commonwealth's own Observer Group found in its preliminary
report that the police did not take action to investigate reported
cases of violence and intimidation against MDC supporters. "Indeed,
they appeared to be high-handed in dealing with the MDC and lenient
towards supporters of the Zanu-PF. This failure to impartially
enforce the law seriously calls into question the application
of the rule of law in Zimbabwe."
THE 2002 PRESIDENTIAL
6. In the weeks after the March 2002 presidential
elections, the same militia who had been active in carrying out
assaults and torture began a co-ordinated effort to track down,
attack and abduct members of the oppositiona political
"witch-hunt", according to local human rights activists.
Using the published lists of names and addresses of those who
acted as polling agents for the MDC, militia have attacked, abducted
and destroyed the homes of middle-ranking opposition officials.
According to published reports, up to 100 MDC supporters and polling
agents had their homes attacked or burned down, and several hundred
fled their communities. By 25 March 2002, local human rights observers
reported that some 17,000 opposition supporters had been internally
displaced because of death threats, harassment and attacks. That
number reportedly included two MDC members of parliament for Manicaland
Province, Evelyne Masaiti of Mutasa and Leonard Chirowamhangu
7. The results of the state-sponsored "terror
tactics" are clear. The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum (ZHRF)
reported that 16 people died in politically motivated violence
in the month of March alone. Among the dead were five polling
agents, including a man in Karoi who was beaten and then drowned,
allegedly by militia members on 11 March, and Fanuel White, who
had died on 28 March after earlier being tortured, also allegedly
by militia members, near the town of Mushumbi Pools. Militia members
in Mbizo township in Kwekwe are reported to have stabbed to death
Funny Mahuni on 13 March after he refused to allow them to take
his daughters to their camp for a Zanu-PF victory celebration.
Police reportedly arrested two suspects on charges of murder,
as of 10 April 2002, but no further prosecution is known to have
8. Amnesty International is particularly
concerned at the increasing number of reports of rape and sexual
torture by the militia, continuing a pattern seen in the run-up
to the 2002 presidential elections. During its visit to Zimbabwe
in March 2002, Amnesty International interviewed women in the
towns of Kwekwe and Chinhoyi. One woman in Kwekwe described how
she was sexually assaulted and then raped by four "militia"
members on 26 January 2002 because a close relative was involved
in the MDC. The woman said that police promised to come and interview
her, but they had never done so. Police arrested four militia
members suspected of the crime but released them within weeks,
and it is not known if any further action has been taken.
9. Amnesty International has received evidence
that Zanu-PF officials in charge of distributing food supplies
in many rural areas are discriminating against those believed
to be supporters of the MDC. Zanu-PF-affiliated youth militia
stationed outside long queues to buy grain are reported to be
targeting MDC supporters for assaults and intimidation to prevent
them from getting food. In the rural town of Mvurwi, for example,
a man standing in line to buy maize meal was beaten after being
recognised as an opposition activist by militia members.
10. In April 2002 a human rights lawyer
confirmed to Amnesty International that war veteran-led militia
control the Grain Marketing Board food distribution facilities
in the Matabeleland North Province. They demand a Zanu-PF party
card before allowing people to buy maize meal. He confirmed similar
acts of discrimination in the towns of Masvingo and Gutu. Amnesty
International has also received individual reports confirming
militia control of food distribution from Kwekwe, Norton, Plumtree,
Beitbridge,Victoria Falls, Chipinge, Kariba and Tsholotsho, north
11. The militias have also been used in
illegal occupations of white-owned commercial farm lands. Local
human rights activists estimate that farm occupations have led
to the displacement of tens of thousands of farm workers and their
families and hundreds of people being assaulted or tortured. Amnesty
International's concerns, as they relate to the question of redistribution
of land in Zimbabwe, are concentrated not on illegal occupations
of farms, but on the widespread human rights violations carried
out against dozens of commercial farmers and thousands of their
farm labourers. The pattern of attacks is part of the "impunity
disease"the Government sees itself as above the law
and esorts to the illegal use of force through state sponsored
militias, which in turn leads to serious violations of human rights.
State security officials have reportedly worked with militias
during the illegal take-over of farms. On 29 March 2002, for example,
the Commercial Farmers Union reported that police assisted militia
members in illegally evicting dozens of farm workers in the farming
community outside of the town of Marondera. Officers allegedly
told the farmer that he must leave and dismiss his foremen with
immediate effect because they had been MDC polling agents.
12. Amnesty International is concerned about
the arrests of journalists, in what appears to be a systematic
clampdown on the independent press, which intensified in the run-up
to the March 2002 presidential elections. Following the elections,
on 15 March 2002, President Mugabe signed the Access to Information
and Protection of Privacy Act into law. The new piece of legislation
establishes a Media and Information Commission that has the power
to both register and deregister media houses and journalists and
to impose fines and jail sentences on those who do not abide by
the new legislation. Foreign journalists are also required to
seek accreditation from the Media and Information Commission.
The Act grants broad powers to the Minister of Information both
to cancel registration licences and to launch investigations into
the operations of media houses without the involvement of either
the police or the judiciary. Since the Act was passed, less than
two months ago, eight journalists are reported to have been detained
under its provisions.
13. In some areas militia members have reportedly
"banned" the sale of independent newspaper, The Daily
News, and have assaulted vendors found selling the paper and
people found reading it.
14. The violations detailed above are all
facilitated by a long-standing culture of impunity in Zimbabwe.
Zanu-PF supporters, including militia members, and state security
forcespolice officers, army officers or agents of the Central
Intelligence Organisation (CIO)who commit human rights
violations are rarely brought to justice. In its on-going monitoring
and research on Zimbabwe, Amnesty International has documented
a systematic failure by the authorities to bring those responsible
for serious human rights violations to justice. Investigation
and prosecution of perpetrators has been blocked by the state's
political manipulation of the police. A purge of police officers
has been under way since 2001 with officers who professionally
and impartially discharge their duties being accused of sympathising
with the MDC. These officers have been transferred to relatively
inferior or rural postings, or to the "Commissioner's Pool",
an administrative limbo where officers are kept without desk,
duty or command.
15. Amnesty International deeply regrets
that members of the UN Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR) in Geneva
voted in favour of a "no-action motion" to avoid a discussion
of a draft resolution on Zimbabwe during the recent 58th session
of the UNCHR. Amnesty International believes that the UNCHR is
a forum in which human rights violations should be discussed in
an open and co-operative way to establish accountability and work
towards ending impunity. Voting items off the agenda of the Commission
which relate to open and grave violations of human rights will
only contribute to the perpetuation of impunity. The vote at the
session of the UNCHR resulted in blocking the discussion on the
draft resolution submitted by Spain on behalf of the European
16. Amnesty International welcomed the statement
by Rt Hon Jack Straw MP, the Foreign Secretary, in his speech
to the 58th session of the UNCHR on 18 April 2002 expressing concern
about the systematic erosion of the rule of law in Zimbabwe which
"has led to an assault on human rights".
17. Amnesty International believes that
the international community should use all possible influence
on the Zimbabwean government to seek an end to continuing human
rights violations. The Zimbabwean government must give assurances
that it will comply with international human rights law and its
obligations under international treaties to which it is party,
including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Amnesty International believes that the Zimbabwean authorities
must take concrete measures to end impunity by dismantling state-backed
militia, by investigating and bringing to justice perpetrators
of human rights violations, and guaranteeing the independence
of judiciary. Amnesty International has called upon the Zimbabwean
government to issue standing invitations to UN Special Rapporteurs
on torture, extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, independence
of judges and lawyers and freedom of expression to visit the country.
18. Amnesty International urges the UK government,
in conjunction with its European Union and Commonwealth partners,
to ensure that the protection of human rights of all citizens
is at the centre of any negotiations and discussions with Zimbabwe.
Furthermore, Amnesty International believes the international
community should press for observers to be allowed access to Zimbabwe,
in particular from the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group whose
requests to visit the country have been denied. Amnesty International
would welcome details of what steps the UK government will be
taking, as part of the Commonwealth, to monitor the human rights
situation in Zimbabwe.
19. Amnesty International believes that
should the Zimbabwean government demonstrate the political will
to rebuild respect for human rights the UK government and its
European Union and Commonwealth partners should seek to aid human
rights reforms. If the Zimbabwean government demonstrates the
political will to remedy the cycle of impunity, assistance could
be offered to the Zimbabwean authorities to help bring to justice
those who have so far avoided being prosecuted, to compensate
the victims of those violations fairly, to rebuild an impartial
and independent police and prison service and entrench in the
law the protection of basic human rights.
Amnesty International UK