“Open for Business,” Closed for Dissent – Crackdown in Zimbabwe During the National Stay Away 14 – 16 January 2019

Introduction

There was renewed hope for change when Emmerson Mnangagwa was ushered in following a military takeover in November 2017 and subsequently, elected as President in August 2018. This hope has been dashed in recent months, with the human rights situation in the country deteriorating further, especially since the government’s brutal crackdown in January 2019 after a national stay-away action in protest to what many people considered tobe massive fuel hikes. The authorities’ response to protests including lethal and excessive use of force, mass arbitrary arrests, torture and arbitrary restrictions on access to internet to suppress protests and the continued impunity for possible crimescommitted by security forces including torture as well as rape has demonstrated deep rooted intolerance to dissenting views.

The Zimbabwean government has obligations to respect, promote and protect the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly as guaranteed under international human rights treaties, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR). Domestically, Section 58(1) of the Constitution states that “every person has a right to freedom of assembly, and the right not to assemble or associate with others”. Section 59 further guarantees everyone the right to demonstrate and present petitions. Zimbabwe is not a party to the Convention Against Torture (CAT) which prohibits torture in all cases, but section 53 of its constitution prohibits torture, or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Despite these clear obligations, Amnesty International has documented gross human rights violations committed in the context of the government crackdown on protests in January.

This briefing analyses events and the context, and documents key human rights concerns in months prior to, during and following the national stay-away protests which started on 14 January 2019 and ended on 16 January 2019. The findings are based on interviews with witnesses, victims, victims’ families, human rights defenders and activists, journalists, lawyers and Zimbabwean non-governmental organizations (NGOs) as well as desk-based research.

Source: Amnesty International

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