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U.S Says Human Rights Abuses Continue in Zimbabwe

FILE: Prominent human rights lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa in prison clothes is being escorted to a Harare detention center.
FILE: Prominent human rights lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa in prison clothes is being escorted to a Harare detention center.

The United States government says human rights violations continued in Zimbabwe in 2014 with the state targeting for torture, abuse, arrest, and harassment members of non-Zanu PF parties and civil society activists.

In its Zimbabwe Country Report released on Monday on Human Rights Practices for 2014, the U.S Department of State’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, said there was partisan application of the rule of law by security forces and the judiciary; and restrictions on civil liberties continue, amid many other human rights problems.

It said this included the government’s expropriation of private property, executive political influence and interference in the judiciary, and infringement on citizens’ privacy rights.

The United States further noted that the government generally failed to investigate or prosecute state security or ZANU-PF supporters responsible for violence and authorities restricted freedoms of speech, press, assembly, association, and movement.

“Violence and discrimination against women; child abuse; trafficking of women and children; and discrimination against persons with disabilities, racial and ethnic minorities, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons, and persons with HIV/AIDS were problems.

“The government interfered with labor-related events. The government took limited steps to punish security sector officials and ZANUPF supporters who committed violations, but impunity continued to be a problem.”

The report says there were credible reports of politically motivated abductions during the year. Human rights groups reported state security agents abducted and tortured members of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) led by Morgan Tsvangirai as part of an effort to intimidate them but there were no reports of authorities punishing any perpetrators.

According to the report, on February 16, suspected state security agents abducted three men in two separate incidents.

“In the first, four men, including two soldiers in uniform, abducted a man wearing an opposition party T-shirt. Soldiers assaulted the man and told him the MDC-T would never rule. The victim later escaped. In the second incident, five men abducted and, according to a credible NGO, tortured two MDC-T party activists, also wearing opposition party T-shirts.”

The report indicates that the MDC-T activists reported they were thrown into the back of a truck, blindfolded, and transported to a cabin in an unknown location. They allegedly reported their abductors beat, water boarded, and trampled them during the interrogation and after the interrogation ceased, the perpetrators left the cabin, and the activists escaped.

“There was no progress in the investigation into the 2013 abduction of Steward Utaunashe, the MDC-T district organizing secretary for Tafara. Three men and one woman alleged to be plainclothes police officers from outside his home reportedly abducted Utaunashe, held him in a vehicle, interrogated and physically abused him, and released him in Rusape six days later.”

It also noted that government corruption remained widespread, including at the local level.