Torture cases rise sharply – Rights Forum

By a Correspondent
HARARE - Torture cases rose sharply in May to 84, and there were some 232 recorded incidents of unlawful arrest and detention, the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum said in its monthly report on political violence.
The report, with its catalogue of arrests and beatings b

y police, abductions and general brutality routinely inflicted by state agents, made the expressions of outrage in the state-run media at the beating up of opposition member of Parliament Trudy Stevenson sound particularly contrived and synthetic.
The attack on Stevenson and four other officials of the pro-Senate faction of the MDC provided a feast for the state-run media, which denounced it as savage, brutal and barbaric and, before any court hearing, repeatedly said it was the work of members of the Morgan Tsvangarai-led MDC. The Tsvangarai-led MDC has claimed the perpetrators belonged to the ruling Zanu (PF) party.
“They (the state media) would not reconcile their accusations of the MDC as a violent party with results of a study by the Zimbabwe Torture Victims Project attributing 99 percent of Zimbabwe’s political violence to the ruling party and state security agents,” noted the Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe (MMPZ).
The Torture Victims Project findings supported an earlier report – based on actual incidents brought to court – by the Human Rights Forum. A detailed analysis of the court cases overwhelmingly attributed political violence to law enforcement agencies and ruling party activists, with the MDC responsible for but a fraction of the violence cases recorded.
Among those arrested and reportedly tortured in May, the Human Rights Forum said, were dozens of students from Bindura State University after class boycotts and the torching of a computer lab.
Some incidents reported by the Forum stand out for the sadism and the total indifference of the police to who witnesses their assaults.
For example, 23 National Constitutional Association (NCA) demonstrators demanding a new constitution were hauled off in police trucks from the intersection of Second Street and Nelson Mandela Avenue on May 11. At Harare Central Police Station they were allegedly beaten up by police at the parking bay. Once inside, apart from more assaults, “sewage water with dead rats was reportedly poured into the cells,” said the Forum. They were released the next day after paying admission of guilt fines under draconian laws preventing free speech and association.
“The Human Rights Forum notes with great concern that violence and torture continue to be used in Zimbabwe by state agents as a way of quelling dissent, as well as extracting information from the public, be it for political or criminal purposes,” said the report.
Then there were the soccer fans singing political songs in a bus on their way home after a match who were taken to Mungate police station after a herdsman on the bus reported them. Eleven ran away and the remaining eight were assaulted with electric cords, sjamboks and booted feet.
Academic John Makumbe was seized from his office at the University of Zimbabwe by suspected CIO agents on May 17. A day later it was again the turn of NCA demonstrators. After being reportedly assaulted by riot police at Africa Unity Square, 32 of them were detained at Harare Central Police Station for four days in overcrowded cells which had human waste on the floors. The detainees included women with babies.
The Forum, a coalition of 16 groups, traditionally chooses its words carefully. It said: “The ongoing harassment and arrest of innocent citizens who are exercising their civil liberties is of continuing concern … and needs to be addressed by the State and its agents as a matter of urgency.”

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