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Zimbabwe police's 'shoot to kill policy' raises alarm

by Staff reporter
31 Dec 2023 at 12:58hrs | Views
LAWYERS have raised alarm over increasing cases of fatal shooting of suspects by police officers under controversial circumstances saying taking the life of the suspected criminals before trial was unconstitutional.

This month alone, five suspected criminals were gunned down by police detectives.

On December 6, three suspected robbers, who were part of a gang that raided at least three schools in and around Bulawayo, were shot dead in Kadoma.

On December 19, two suspected robbers working with some South African nationals to commit crimes in Harare were shot dead.

Last week, a police officer from Mkoba, Gweru fatally shot a man who had intended to free his detained friend.

The police officer has since been charged with murder.

In November, one of the suspected armed robbers involved in a robbery in Harare's Southerton area was shot dead during a shootout with police officers

Legal experts questioned the use of lethal force amid rising cases of suspects being shot dead, some during indications. Lawyer Dumisani Dube told The Standard that resorting to lethal force without exhausting alternative measures was unconstitutional.

"No one has a right to kill anyone, serve for few exceptions as governed by law," Dube said.

"Most importantly, the presumption of innocence states that everyone is innocent until proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt after free, fair, public trial before independent and impartial courts.

"So, imagine how many are executed without going through trial in wanton violation of the law."

Dube said police have a right to use minimum force in exceptional situations when effecting arrest or in their defence of life while in service.

Lawyer Jacqueline Sande said the use of lethal force should only be a last resort as it is the hangman's job to kill.

"It should only be used as a matter of life and death to preserve the police officer's life, not as a means of deterring criminals from committing further offenses or as a means of apprehending and convicting a criminal," Sande said.

She said the constitution was clear that every citizen is entitled to life. "It doesn't mean that when a person is suspected to have committed an offense, his or her life is immediately diminished or discarded," Sande said.

"If the court is indeed convinced that you are supposed to die for your crimes, you will then be convicted and sentenced to death.

"It should be the hangman's job to kill, not police.

"It should not be the police officer to willy-nilly decide to shoot and kill a person."

She said police should be held accountable for every loss of life during the course of their duties.

Another lawyer Tinashe Runganga, however, said the shoot-to-kill policy was a necessary evil to put a stop to crime.

"These are dangerous armed robbers. If you delay to shoot, they kill you," Runganga said.

"The policy protects these officers.

"I am not condemning their policy because most of these people who are being shot are not innocent, they are dangerous. As it stands, I think police are professionally executing their duties."

Police spokesperson assistant commissioner Paul Nyathi said the law enforcement agency does not have a shootto-kill policy, but only responds in equal measure when attacked by criminals.

"We have said that the Zimbabwe Republic Police will respond appropriately according to the merits of the particular situation when dealing with violent crimes such as armed robbery cases and that has been our official position," Nyathi said.

"We have said if criminals decide to be confrontational and be in a gunfight with police officers, appropriate response will be given."

Early this year, police commissioner general Godwin Matanga announced that police will not hesitate to shoot suspected armed robbers after Wedza officer in charge Maxwell Hove was shot dead by suspected serial killer Jaison Muvevi. President Emmerson Mnangagwa's spokesperson George Charamba has also said that the government had given police the green light to shoot and kill suspected armed robbers.

Source - the standard
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