Thursday, June 12, 2008

Electioneering in Zimbabwe - Torture & "re-education" camps

As reported in the London Independent (below):
The Zimbabwean army and police have been accused of setting up torture camps and organising "re-education meetings" involving unspeakable cruelty where voters are beaten and mutilated in the hope of achieving victory for President Robert Mugabe in the second round of the presidential election.

A 40-page report issued today by Human Rights Watch contains comprehensive and graphic witness accounts of the reign of terror being conducted behind a wall of secrecy in sealed-off areas to punish the Zimbabwean electorate for voting for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change. [....]

The harassment campaign is officially known as "Operation Makavhoterapapi", meaning "where did you put your vote," according to locals. [....]

The report says that 36 people have been killed and 2,000 have been beaten or tortured since the first round of the presidential election on 29 March, in which according to the official result Mr Tsvangirai obtained 47.9 per cent against Mr Mugabe's 43.2 per cent. [....]

Human Rights Watch says the abuse is the worst it has seen in an election campaign in Zimbabwe, a country where state-orchestrated political violence has a grim record of impunity.

According to Human Rights Watch, more than 3,000 people have fled their homes as a result of the violence. [....] More than 100 electoral officials have been arrested and MDC activists have been killed. [....] No arrests have been made.
In what strikes me as a masterpiece of understatement,
Human Rights Watch said that under current conditions there was "no possibility of a credible, free and fair poll".
=> Norman Geras adds:
The piece goes on to detail some of the brutalities. See further on the new HRW report; and the report itself here - particularly section V, 'State-Sponsored Violence and Torture since the March 29 Elections'.

One might observe that an international legal system in which such things happen without timely response is not an effective one and ought to be treated more critically than it sometimes is by those who appeal to it as providing a normative standard.
One might indeed. --Jeff Weintraub

==============================
The Independent (London)
Monday, 9 June 2008
Mugabe's brutality to force election victory is revealed
By Anne Penketh, Diplomatic Editor

The Zimbabwean army and police have been accused of setting up torture camps and organising "re-education meetings" involving unspeakable cruelty where voters are beaten and mutilated in the hope of achieving victory for President Robert Mugabe in the second round of the presidential election.

A 40-page report issued today by Human Rights Watch contains comprehensive and graphic witness accounts of the reign of terror being conducted behind a wall of secrecy in sealed-off areas to punish the Zimbabwean electorate for voting for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change. The result of the 29 March election forced President Mugabe into a humiliating run-off, scheduled for 27 June, against his challenger Morgan Tsvangirai for the first time in his 28-year rule.

The authors, who interviewed more than 70 witnesses to the violence, identify senior military officials and police officers who were "inciting and organising" the fightback, confirming the army's role in orchestrating the brutality after a senior Western diplomat said that the country was now being run by a military "junta" grouped in the Joint Operations Command. The JOC is run by the defence forces chief but also includes the heads of the police, prisons service and intelligence. Many of the camps at which MDC supporters, or perceived opposition supporters, are beaten and mutilated are located on army bases.

The harassment campaign is officially known as "Operation Makavhoterapapi", meaning "where did you put your vote," according to locals. The army is providing known "war veterans" and Zanu-PF supporters with guns, transportation and the bases where the abuses are carried out.

Human Rights Watch says it has "information from credible sources in the police and prison services, as well as from victims and eyewitnesses that Operation Makavhoterapapi was planned and orchestrated under the direction and command of the JOC. However, HRW said it could not link the JOC to specific acts of violence.

The report says that 36 people have been killed and 2,000 have been beaten or tortured since the first round of the presidential election on 29 March, in which according to the official result Mr Tsvangirai obtained 47.9 per cent against Mr Mugabe's 43.2 per cent.

In a chilling threat to villagers in Karoi, Mashonaland West province, soldiers handed out bullets to villagers and told them: "If you vote for MDC in the presidential run-off election, you have seen the bullets, we have enough for each one of you, so beware."

Ringleaders are said to include Police Assistant Commissioner Martin Kwainona of the presidential guard, who has been accused of inciting, leading and perpetrating violence in Mount Darwin, Mashonaland Central. The Mashonaland provinces are strongholds of the ruling Zanu-PF party where the MDC made significant inroads in the election.

Mr Kwainona threatened people at a meeting at a school in Mount Darwin on 18 April, saying: "All MDC members in Mount Darwin must be made to disappear, we are busy training our youths to do just that".

Another alleged culprit is an air force commander, Bramwell Kachairo. "He is the one leading the violence," said one witness in Mashonaland East. Another said: "I have seen him beating people in the area. He is very dangerous."

Human Rights Watch says the abuse is the worst it has seen in an election campaign in Zimbabwe, a country where state-orchestrated political violence has a grim record of impunity.

According to Human Rights Watch, more than 3,000 people have fled their homes as a result of the violence. Since the official results were released on 2 June, the Mugabe regime has launched an all-out attack on opposition supporters, confiscating ID cards, in a kind of electoral cleansing campaign. More than 100 electoral officials have been arrested and MDC activists have been killed.

Last week, the government suspended food distribution by aid agencies, drawing international condemnation for using food as a weapon. The government accused the West of supporting the MDC, and charges that the MDC is responsible for the violence.

Mr Tsvangirai, whose campaign has been disrupted by arrests, spoke yesterday in Bulawayo and Kwekwe where he urged supporters to turn out. Nelson Chamisa, an MDC spokesman, said two rallies were held in Harare, despite disruption attempts: "The people are so ...courageous. It was very successful."

Human Rights Watch said that under current conditions there was "no possibility of a credible, free and fair poll".

Six deaths at 're-education' meeting

Three hundred youth militia, Zanu-PF youths and "war veterans" ordered villagers in Chiweshe into a "re-education meeting" on 5 May. Joseph Madzuramhende was one of several villagers who had barbed wire tied round his genitals and the other end tied around logs. Six Zanu-PF youth activists told him: "We will beat you until you move the log with your penis." He died in agony. His "crime" was to have invited villagers to his home to listen to the election results on an independent radio station. Retired Major Cairo Mhandu said: "This community needs to be taught a lesson. It needs re-education. We want people to come forward and confess about their links with the MDC and surrender to Zanu-PF." As no one came forward, one Zanu-PF youth forced a 76-year-old woman to lie on her stomach. He said: "We will beat this woman if people don't come forward." They started beating her buttocks with logs. After 10 minutes, three men came forward and said they were MDC just to stop the beating. The names of 20 MDC activists were called out from a list. The party youths beat them and demanded that they each reveal the names of other activists. In pain, the victims shouted out names, and others were beaten. More than 70 people were beaten, and six died. No arrests have been made.

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