31 July Protest Monitoring Report – Abridged Version

Introduction
The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum (the Forum), is a coalition of 20 civil society organisations working on human rights issues throughout the country. The Forum took time to monitor the compliance with human rights standards by the security forces during and before the 31 July protest.

Since the call by opposition party leader Jacob Ngarivhume for the nation to come out and protest on 31 July 2020, a call which was made more than two weeks ago, the State has responded to this call with a heavy-handed approach in the guise of enforcing COVID-19 regulations. Prior to 31 July, several opposition party supporters, human rights defenders and labour leaders have been continuously persecuted by State security agents. The crackdown by State security officers has seen the arrest of investigative journalist Hopewell Chin’ono and Jacob Ngarivhume who were both arrested on 20 July and have been remanded in custody.  The Forum, through its membership, has recorded at least 40 human rights violations related to the protests between 20 July to 31 July 2020.

Violations at a glance

Violation AreasPerpetratorsNumber of cases
ArrestsGweru, Masvingo, Borrowdale, Groombridge, Harare CBD, Mwenezi, Eyestone, Bulawayo, ChiviSuspected security agents, ZRP18
Attack on JournalistsBulawayo, HarareZRP3
Assaults and TortureHighfield, Gokwe, Hopley, Retreat Farm ZNA, ZRP, ZANU PF11
AbductionsMarondera, Hopley, Bulawayo, ChegutuSuspected security agents8
RaidsChitungwiza, Bulawayo, HarareZRP, Suspected security agents6

* A comprehensive report providing a detailed analysis of the violations will be released soon.

Summary of violations
Arrests
The Forum and its Members documented eighteen (18) cases of arrests of pro-democracy campaigners and peaceful protestors. Among the arrested persons are Tsitsi Dangarembga, Julie Banes and Cecilia Chimbiri. Police also arrested Advocate Fadzai Mahere who is the spokesperson for the MDC Alliance. Police officers cited COVD-19 lockdown regulations to arrest peaceful protestors who were exercising the recommended physical distancing among other regulations. Some of the arrested persons were detained before being released without charge. However, others were charged with miscellaneous conduct and are expected to appear in court on 1 August 2020.

Abductions
A total of eight (8) cases of abductions of labour leaders, opposition party supporters and their families have been documented. The majority of the victims were dumped at secluded places and left with harrowing tales of torture. However, the whereabouts of Tawanda Muchehiwa remain unknown after he was abducted on 30 July. Efforts to locate him in police stations around Bulawayo have not yielded positive results. In the reported cases of abductions, unidentified men in casual clothes driving unmarked vehicles were reported.

Assault
The Forum and its Members documented eighteen (18) cases of assaults against civilians by police officers and soldiers. In reported incidences, victims were assaulted with sjamboks, baton sticks, booted feet and fists. Among the victims are women, and children. The victims were assaulted at checkpoints and community boreholes whilst some were assaulted in their yards. 

Raids
During the days leading to 31 July, anti-riot police officers accompanied by soldiers and other unidentified State security agents raided houses of opposition party supporters, journalists, labour leaders and pro-democracy activists. In most cases, police officers did not have search warrants or warrants of arrests. In the process, property such as windows and doors were destroyed. In total, six (6) cases of raids were reported nationally.   The Forum also responded to a lawyer whose house was besieged by riot police who wanted to search for demonstrators and posters.  The police were denied entry by a legal team which attended at the house as they did not have a search warrant.

Attacks on Journalists
Journalists were not spared from the wrath of law enforcement officers. Attacks on journalists ranged from arrests, assaults and detention during the course of their duties. ZRP officers and soldiers were the major perpetrators in this category. The attacks against journalists were perpetrated despite journalists producing their press cards.

Interventions
A number of Forum members have intervened to assist victims and confront the perpetrators. The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) is representing victims of arbitrary arrests and detention. The Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP) has been mapping and documenting human rights violations as part of the conflict early warning system. The Forum has coordinated emergency response for victims among many members than those simply mentioned here. The Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR) together with the Counselling Services Unit (CSU) continue to assist victims of military and police brutality with medical assistance and psycho-social support.

Conclusion
The Forum is gravely worried about the human rights situation in Zimbabwe especially relating to freedoms of peaceful assembly and association and freedoms of the media. The Forum continues to call upon authorities to respect the Constitution and the rights of all citizens. The Forum maintains that the current deployment of the military is unlawful and unwarranted.

Source: Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum (HRForum)