Local civic society organisations have raised alarm over high incidences of human rights violations during the COVID-19 pandemic induced lockdown imposed to curb the spread of the virus.
In various statements issued today in commemoration of the International Human Rights Day, civil society groups raised alarm over human rights violations perpetrated by state institutions under the pretext of enforcing COVID-19 lockdown measures.
The National Transitional Justice Working Group (NTJWG) said the declaration of a COVID-19 lockdown resulted in a sharp increase in rights violations perpetrated by law enforcement agents.
“The emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic in Zimbabwe was characterised by a national lockdown which was imposed to curb the spread of the virus. Regrettably, there was a marked increase in cases of human rights violations which were perpetrated by the police and soldiers who were on the national lockdown enforcement duties.
“According to the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, at least 920 human rights violations were recorded between 30 March and 18 September 2020. These violations include abductions and torture, extrajudicial killings, assaults on citizens by law enforcement officers, attacks on journalists, unlawful arrests and gunshots.
“This shows that while the legal framework for the respect, promotion, and protection of human rights exists in Zimbabwe, national security forces repeatedly fail to abide and fully implement it. The continued recurrence of human rights violations in Zimbabwe breeds a culture of impunity that undermines efforts to facilitate national peace and reconciliation in the country.” said NTJWG
Human rights pressure group, the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum said it remains worried by the continued deterioration of socio-economic and political rights in the country.
“The Forum remains extremely concerned that Zimbabweans are commemorating the International Human Rights Day in a country where socio-economic and political rights continued to deteriorate. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, citizens have continued to suffer marginalization and various forms of repression and aggression in the country.
“Human rights violations such as abductions, torture, assault, unlawful arrests and pre-trial detention of journalists, human rights defenders and opposition party activists have been on the increase throughout the year. The State and its affiliated law enforcement institutions have been identified as the major perpetrators of these violations,” said the Forum
The Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR) echoed the same sentiments saying the lockdown exacerbated the plight of frontline healthcare workers.
“The advent of the lockdown in Zimbabwe saw citizens being subjected to human rights violations by State security agents deployed to enforce lockdown regulations. Further, access to healthcare was impacted as individuals with chronic illnesses and pregnant women were unable to access treatment.
“Frontline personnel such as healthcare professionals operated with minimum or no access to personal protective equipment, leaving them exposed to COVID-19. To date, over 700 health professionals have been infected by the deadly virus.” said ZADHR.
The day is observed on the 10th of December each year to commemorate the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948.
International Human Rights DayNational Transitional Justice Working Group (NTJWG)Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR)Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum