24 November 2017

Zimbabwe: Clarify G40 Arrests, Human Rights Watch Challenges Military

Photo: Tendai Biti
Thousands of Zimbabweans marched through Harare to demand that President Robert Mugabe step down.

A GLOBAL human rights lobby group has demanded that the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) publicly explain the claimed arrests and detention without trial of Robert Mugabe loyalists in the outgoing cabinet.

When the military effectively took over power last week and placed then President Mugabe under house arrest, cabinet ministers loyal to the now fallen leader were said to have been detained.

Especially targeted were members of the G40 Zanu PF faction who were accused of propping up the 93-year-old leader and supposedly aiding his claimed bid to ensure wife, Grace, succeeded him as the country's leader.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) said the military should publicly acknowledge the identities and location of everyone arrested and detained, and ensure that their due process rights, including access to lawyers and family members, are respected.

"The military should clear the air about any arrests across Zimbabwe and hand over any criminal suspects to the appropriate civilian authorities according to law," said Dewa Mavhinga, Southern Africa director at Human Rights Watch on Wednesday.

"Failing to disclose the whereabouts of those detained is an enforced disappearance that places detainees at greater risk of abuse."

The military code-named its intervention Operation Restore Legacy and insisted that it was not a coup but a rooting out of criminal elements around Mugabe causing political instability and economic strife in the country.

Widely reported as detained were finance minister Ignatius Chombo who has not been heard from or seen since while the Harare homes of cabinet counterparts Jonathan Moyo and Saviour Kasukuwere were reportedly raided with images showing walls riddled with bullet holes while doors and windows were smashed.

Kasukuwere and Moyo tweeted once shortly after Mugabe resigned, lamenting his fall, but their whereabouts remain unclear. Other Mugabe loyalists, including vice president Phelekezela Mphoko, have not been heard from, their whereabouts unclear too.

"However, the military has not provided information about any arrest, location, and conditions of detention, or reasons for arrest," said Human Rights Watch.

Zimbabwe's constitution provides for the pre-trial rights of detainees and guarantees freedom from torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.

The country is also party to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which guarantee rights to personal liberty and due process, as well as protection from arbitrary arrest and detention, and mistreatment in custody.

"The end of Mugabe's 37 years of abusive rule should not be marked by continued rights violations. Respect for the rule of law and due process for anyone in detention would signal a clean break with the past," Mavhinga said.

The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights on Wednesday also called on authorities to uphold the rights of everyone detained following the military takeover which has seen Emmerson Mnangagwa taking over as president.

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