Human rights abusers must come to justice

It is heartening that local courts have in recent months managed to prosecute cases of politically-motivated human rights abuses. However, a lot more needs to be done to bring to book perpetrators of political violence. The cases that the courts have dealt with so far are a drop in the ocean.

Paul Bogaert
Paul Bogaert

During the presidential run-off period in 2008, hundreds of defenceless people died, mostly at the hands of Zanu (PF) militias set loose by politicians to cow the electorate into submission as President Robert Mugabe faced an acid test from Morgan Tsvangirai, who had won the first round. Those who died in orgies of violence included women and children, the disabled and the elderly.

Thousands of girls and women were raped and thousands more were displaced. Many lost their livestock and property. State security agents from the national intelligence unit, army and police were also involved in the organised violence that left many maimed as well emotionally and psychologically damaged.

There are numerous reasons why the human rights abusers have not been brought to book yet. The fear they instilled in their victims kept them from approaching the police. There is widespread lack of confidence in the police given that many were among the perpetrators, and those citizens who mustered the courage to report abuses were turned away or arrested themselves. There is general lack of knowledge among the victims about their rights and how best to ensure that they get justice.

In addition, there has been an acute absence of political will to deal with past cases of human rights abuses. That is why the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission never got off the ground and the Organ for National Healing and Integration worked only in fits and starts.

In the spirit of reconciliation and unity, government departments must work closely with non-governmental organisations to ensure that victims of politically motivated human rights abuses come forward and report or reactivate reports of what they went through. Most of the violators still roam free and are known.

In cases where reports have already been made, the victims must be encouraged to pursue their cases further. This, of course, must be done under the oversight of a non-partisan body. The long arm of the law must catch up with the guilty parties before too long.

Post published in: Editor: Wilf Mbanga

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