WASHINGTON DC —
The Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights has demanded an independent investigation into the deaths of over 100 people in the country’s prisons since the beginning of the year.
Initially the deaths were blamed on hunger by government officials speaking before a parliamentary committee but Justice Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa later said it was not true that the prisoners had died of hunger.
The human rights group said in a statement it was “gravely concerned” by the reports that more than 100 prisoners have died since January 2013 due to malnutrition-related diseases.
ZADHR chairperson Doctor Rutendo Bonde said the government must quickly address the bad situation in the country’s prisons.
He said Harare should adhere to the new constitution that gives inmates the right to consult medical practitioners of their choice.
“There is definitely a need for a second opinion on the actual cause of deaths especially from independent medical personnel. We cannot over-emphasize the role of independent post-mortems to discover what are the true causes of death,” Doctor Bonde said.
At the same time, in proclamation declaring Human Rights Day and Human Rights Week, President Barack Obama said in many parts of the world people are still persecuted for their beliefs, imprisoned for their ideals and punished for their convictions.
Mr. Obama said, “A growing number of countries are passing laws designed to stifle civil society including organizations that promote universal human rights, support good governance, and bolster economic development.
“Securing freedoms that are threatened or denied will require an unceasing commitment. Today and always, let us break down prejudice, amplify the courageous voices that sound the call for change and reaffirm our unwavering support for the principles enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
He declared December 10 Human Rights Day and the following week, Human Rights Week.