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Perpetual Fear: Impunity and Cycles of Violence in Zimbabwe

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The power-sharing government in Zimbabwe has been expected to put an end to human rights violations, restore rule of law and cease politically motivated violence in the country. However, two years have since passed since its formation and human rights violations remain a grave problem in Zimbabwe. In February this year, police raided and arrested a gathering of social and human rights activists who were discussing the political events in Egypt. Some were allegedly beaten and tortured and were charged with treason. This incident is a true reflection of the violations of human rights in Zimbabwe.

Human Rights Watch published a 40-page report, “Perpetual Fear: Impunity and Cycles of Violence in Zimbabwe.” This reports indicates that violence and human rights violations are being fueled by the unity government’s failure to investigate and prosecute cases. Most of these cases of abductions, killings and torture are crimes that occurred in the 2008 elections and little or no accountability has been done.

The Organ for National Healing, Reconciliation and Integration, which was set up after the formation of the unity government, does not seem to be achieving its mandate.

“The mandate of the Organ is to lay the foundations for a society characterised by mutual respect, tolerance, and development where individuals enjoy the freedoms as enshrined in the Constitution. The mission of the Organ is “to heal the wounds caused by generations of injustice, intolerance, exclusion and impunity so as to reconcile Zimbabweans to become One Nation focused on social, political, cultural, and economic development in order to improve the quality of life for all.” On 5 January 2011, a ten member team of artists performing a drama called “Rituals” based on national healing were arrested at Nhedziwa Business Centre in Cashel Valley and detained for two nights before being released. They were being charged with “criminal nuisance” under the Criminal Law (Codification & Reform) Act. According to filed papers, the group allegedly “intentionally and unlawfully made noise or disturbance and beating drums in a public place performing drama reminiscent of political disturbances of June 2008 elections. The drama incited the affected members of the public to revive their differences”.

Human Rights Watch, in their report, calls on the unity government to take all necessary measures to end impunity by setting up an independent commission of inquiry with credible civil society panel members to investigate serious past human rights violations, including those committed during the 2008 election period. And to discipline or prosecute those responsible, regardless of their position or rank.

There’s no doubt that it’s time for real justice to be delivered in Zimbabwe.

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