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U.N. Human Rights Calls on Zimbabwe To Stop Crackdown

United Nations Headquarters - Geneva
United Nations Headquarters - Geneva

The United Nations human rights office called on Zimbabwe's government on Friday to "stop the crackdown against protesters" and "excessive use of force" by security forces including firing live ammunition.

"Doctors' associations that are putting numbers out there, likely that more than 60 people were treated in hospitals for gunshot wounds", Ravina Shamdasani, U.N. human rights spokeswoman said.

She also denounced alleged "intimidation and harassment" by security forces in night-time door-to-door searches, beatings by police, 600 arrests and the shutting down of Internet and social media.

"We understand ... access to WhatsApp and Facebook was also blocked at some point. Internet access was shut down, then it has apparently resumed and now there are reports that it is being shut down again," Shamdasani told reporters, adding that despite the government's reasons, such a move is curtailing free access of information.

"The government has been saying that this is to deal with misinformation that is spreading on social media. But we are concerned because this is also impairing the ability of people to communicate with each other," she said.

Protests against fuel price hikes in Zimbabwe started on Monday, posing a major challenge for President Emmerson Mnangagwa who replaced long-time leader Robert Mugabe and promised to repair the creaking economy.

There is a severe shortage of dollars, fuel and medicines, while inflation hit 31 percent in November, the highest in a decade.