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Zimbabwe among worst 2020 human rights offenders, U.S. report finds

by Staff reporter
31 Mar 2021 at 08:09hrs | Views
Zimbabwe was among some of the worst human rights offenders last year as President Emmerson Mnangagwa's regime continued to unleash violence on opponents and activists with impunity, an annual assessment by the U.S. State Department on global human rights said Tuesday.

The 2020 Human Rights Report that evaluated about 200 countries painted a grim picture across the world saying violations of liberties escalated with some countries using Covid-19 restrictions "as a pretext to restrict rights and consolidate authoritarian rule."

Some of the worst offenders, the report found, were Washington's geopolitical opponents Russia and China, which the U.S. says committed "genocide against Uyghurs, who are predominantly Muslim, and crimes against humanity including imprisonment, torture, enforced sterilization, and persecution."

Given the dire outlook, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said President Joe Biden's administration had "placed human rights front and center in its foreign policy" and would continue to press for reform.

In Zimbabwe, Mnangagwa was found to have escalated attacks on opponents, including anti-corruption campaigners, journalists, and opposition MDC Alliance activists – among them Harare West MP Joanna Mamombe, Cecilia Chimbiri, and Netsai Marova who were abducted and allegedly tortured by suspected state security agents.

Mamombe and Chimbiri are currently languishing in remand prison after they were arrested two weeks ago on charges of violating Covid-19 restrictions. Their bail appeal was denied by a High Court judge early this week.

"State-sanctioned violence in Zimbabwe against civil society activists, labor leaders, and opposition members continued a culture of impunity, and LGBTQI+ persons continued to be vulnerable to violence, discrimination, and harassment due to criminalization and stigma associated with same-sex sexual conduct," Blinken said in a statement.

In a 49-page assessment focusing on Zimbabwe, the U.S. cited "significant human rights issues, including unlawful or arbitrary killings of civilians by security forces; torture and arbitrary detention by security forces; cases of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; political prisoners or detainees and arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy,"

It also found "serious problems with the independence of the judiciary; serious government restrictions on free expression, press, and the internet, including violence, threats of violence, or unjustified arrests or prosecutions against journalists, censorship, site blocking, and the existence of criminal libel laws."

The report added: Security forces arbitrarily arrested and detained persons, particularly political and civil society activists, labor leaders, and journalists perceived as opposing the government. Security forces frequently arrested large numbers of persons during and following anti-government protests."

Some of the journalists who were targeted by the government, the U.S. said, include Frank Chikowore and Samuel Takawira who were arrested May 22, Hopewell Chin'ono and ZimLive editor Mduduzi Mathuthu whose house was raided by police on July 29 "for information on subversive materials linked to protests scheduled for July 31."

The U.S. criticized Zimbabwe for not arresting or punishing soldiers who were involved in the killing of civilians following the 2018 elections despite a recommendation by the Monthante Commission.

"Impunity for politically-motivated violence remained a problem. The government did not establish an independent complaints mechanism to investigate allegations of security force misconduct as called for in the constitution," the report said.

"Investigations continued into violence from previous years, including state-sponsored violence, that resulted in the deaths of 17 civilians in January-February 2019 and seven during postelection violence in 2018. As of year's end, there were no arrests or charges in the cases."

Zimbabwe information minister Monica Mutsvangwa was not readily available for comment. But government vehemently denies accusations of trampling on people's freedoms and civil liberties.

The Biden administration renewed sanctions on Mnangagwa and his inner circle early this month, accusing them of escalating human rights abuses, corruption, and resisting political reform.

Source - zimlive