By Wallace Mawire
ZIMBABWE Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) has said that it is greatly concerned, by disturbing events that unfolded in Harare on 01 August 2018, during a protest by unarmed civilians in Harare following the announcement of the 2018 National Assembly results, after the harmonised elections held on 30 July 2013.
According to ZLHR, reports indicate that, members of the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) were acting to contain the situation that was unfolding in the Harare central business district. ZLHR says that it has further received information that armed elements of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) used excessive force to disperse the protestors.
The protests erupted in the morning with civilians protesting against the outcome of the 2018 harmonised elections, although the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission continued to announce the outstanding results for the National Assembly elections at the National Command Centre, situated at the Rainbow Towers hotel in Harare.
According to ZLHR, reports indicate that the ZDF opened fire, using live bullets and wantonly brutally assaulting unarmed protesters resulting in several people sustaining injuries and some people losing their lives.
ZLHR said that while it does not not condone any violent acts by members of the public could have handled the situation in a restrained and reasonable manner without subjecting members of the public, media practitioners and innocent by standers to arbitrary and unlawful acts such as harassment, assault, torture, other forms of cruel and inhuman treatment, loss of life, which are a violation of their fundamental rights.
“The right to demonstrate is a fundamental and constitutionally guaranteed right for citizens to exercise in expressing their concerns and aspirations as guaranteed in section 59 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe. Further section 58 of the Constitution guarantees everyone’s right to freedom of assembly and association. ZLHR wishes to remind the public, however that the right to demonstrate must also be exercised with due regard of the rights of others” ZLHR said.
ZLHR said that while authorities may have been concerned by the conduct of the protestors, the ZDF’s conduct is unacceptable and does not justify the brutal response. Such conduct by elements of the ZDF is a serious threat to national security. The role of the ZDF as outlined in section 212 of the Constitution is to protect Zimbabwe, its people and uphold the supreme law. Further, the United Nations Basic Principles on the use of force and firearms by law enforcement officials provide that lethal force may only be used under circumstances where it is unavoidable and in order to protect life in proportion to the seriousness of the situation and objective to be achieved.
ZLHR said that it calls for:
• All members of the public to remain calm and peaceful;
• All political parties to encourage their members and members of the public to exercise their rights with due regard to rights of others;
• Members of the ZRP and the ZDF to conduct themselves with utmost respect for all the fundamental rights and freedoms guaranteed in the is party to;
• Those ZDF members involved in the gross violation of citizens’ rights to be appropriately disciplined or prosecuted, regardless of their rank and be held accountable to prevent recurrence.