Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called on Zimbabwean authorities to uphold the rights of everyone detained following the military takeover on November 15.
In a statement yesterday, the international human rights group said the military should publicly acknowledge the identities and location of everyone arrested and detained and ensure that their rights, including access to lawyers and family members, were respected.
“The military should clear the air about any arrests across Zimbabwe and hand over any criminal suspects to the appropriate civilian authorities according to law,” HRW Southern Africa director Dewa Mavhinga said.
“Failing to disclose the whereabouts of those detained is an enforced disappearance that places detainees at greater risk of abuse.”
HRW said the military announced its avowed aim of arresting criminals around former President Robert Mugabe.
It said reports indicated the military arrested a number of Mugabe’s associates and that they remained in detention.
However, the military has not provided information about the location and conditions of detention, or reasons for the arrests.
“Close relatives of Finance minister Ignatius Chombo told Human Rights Watch that the military arrested and detained him. The media reported that Higher and Tertiary Education minister Jonathan Moyo had been arrested and was in military detention. Moyo may have since been released as his verified Twitter account became active following Mugabe’s resignation on November 21,” HRW said.
“The Zimbabwe Constitution provides for the pre-trial rights of detainees and guarantees freedom from torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment. Zimbabwe is also party to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which guarantee rights to personal liberty and due process, and protection from arbitrary arrest and detention, and mistreatment in custody.”
Mavhinga also said the end of Mugabe’s 37 years of abusive rule should not be marked by continued rights violations.
He said respect for the rule of law and due process for anyone in detention would signal a clean break with the past.