Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum from Amnesty International UK


  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 Union—Patriotic 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.


  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."


  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 opposition—a 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 of Nyanga.


  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 taken place.


  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 of Bulawayo.


  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 forces—police 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 Union.

  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

May 2002

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