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Amnesty Accuses Zimbabwe Police of Intimidation


A Zimbabwean policeman struggles to confiscate a banner from a human rights activist on March 22, 2013.

A Zimbabwean policeman struggles to confiscate a banner from a human rights activist on March 22, 2013.

Amnesty International released a report on Friday accusing Zimbabwean police of clamping down on basic freedoms as elections approach. But Zimbabwean authorities have dismissed the report as lacking tangible and verifiable facts.

The report, entitled “Walk the Talk," alleges that Zimbabwean police are targeting and intimidating human rights defenders ahead of elections on July 31. The London-based rights organization says Zimbabwean police have conducted systematic raids on offices, arbitrarily arrested human rights defenders and seized equipment to intimidate and disrupt the work of organizations carrying out election-related human rights work.

Speaking to reporters, Zimbabwe police spokesman Andrew Phiri dismissed the Amnesty International report as too broad and general.

“When complaints of intimidation are made, what we would prefer as an organization is to say; at such a police station, an individual with a name and alleged persons who are police officers who are alleged to have intimidated this; normally if that is brought to our desk, normally we investigate these.”

Earlier this month police arrested four members from a pro-democracy group in the eastern border town of Mutare. They were distributing T-shirts and encouraging Zimbabweans to go register to vote and participate in the July 31 general elections. The four spent two nights in jail before a court granted them bail. They are expected to stand trial on August 1 to answer charges of conducting voter education without authority from the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission.

Zimbabweans go to the polls on July 31 to end the power-sharing government of President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai which was formed in 2009 following a disputed election.

The election will only go ahead if the treasury gets enough money to conduct the voting. Earlier this week, Zimbabwe's finance minister sent a message seeking help from regional countries saying that about $90 million is needed to go forward.
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