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Zimbabwe Police Criticized by Human Rights Forum - 2003-03-21

A new report by a human rights group in Zimbabwe says the country's police are among the leading abusers of human rights in Zimbabwe.

According to the Human Rights Forum, at least 122 people were wrongfully arrested in February. When the detainees were brought to court, the police were unable to furnish any evidence to prosecute them.

But the Human Rights Forum cautions that its statistics are gathered only from those who come forward to have their cases recorded. Political analysts believe the actual figure of those wrongfully arrested is actually much higher. They point out that it is very hard to find out what police are doing beyond the urban areas of Zimbabwe.

The report by the Human Rights Forum says, in the month of February, at least eight people were tortured while in police custody. It also provides details of many opposition rallies that were held with official permission but were broken up anyway by the police.

Compiled by human rights monitors and medical doctors, the report backs up charges made by the opposition Movement for Democratic Change: that elements within the Zimbabwe Republic Police are increasingly being used by the government to harass the political opposition.

Assistant Police Commissioner Wayne Bvudzijena said there was no culture of torture in the police. He said incidents of torture were the work of individual policemen and were not common throughout the force.

Meanwhile, President Robert Mugabe said Friday the security forces should react promptly and with vigor against those who paralyzed Zimbabwe in a two-day strike this week. He said the strikers were sponsored by foreign countries.

Reports are coming in of arrests and violence in different parts of the country. At least five people were detained by police Friday at an office on the northern edge of Harare.