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  • Activist Pastor Evan Mawarire arrives at court in Harare, Zimbabwe, Jan. 18, 2019.

    Activist Pastor Evan Mawarire arrives at court in Harare, Zimbabwe, Jan. 18, 2019. | Photo: Reuters

Published 23 January 2019

Zimbabwe National Army and Police instigated torture in the aftermath of disturbances related to fuel price hikes.

The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) denounced Thursday cases of torture and arbitrary detentions during the protests that have taken place since last week, warning that among the detainees are children as young as 11 years old.

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Zimbabwe: 12 Dead in Protests, Gov't Crackdown to Intensify

“In the aftermath of Jan. 14 disturbances, armed and uniformed members of the Zimbabwe National Army and the Zimbabwe Republic Police instigated systematic torture. The torture was organized in that they targeted men who stay near areas where barricades had been placed and near areas that were torched by protestors or looted,” ZHRC stated and added that “those aligned to the Movement for Democratic Change were also specifically targeted for example Members of Parliament, Councillors and other active members.”

The ZHRC explained that security forces arrived at night or at dawn to peoples' houses and asked men to go out and lie on the ground. After beating all men, including 11 year-old children, they asked them to flee or face arrest.

Current protests began on Jan. 14, a day after President Emmerson Mnangagwa announced that fuel prices would be increased up to US$3 per liter.

“Zimbabwe: complaints about the brutality of the military against the civilians multiply. Human Rights Watch denounces shooting on the crowd and house-to-house raids, with beatings and torture. At least 12 dead.”

Protestors mounted barricades on streets in Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe. The government then ordered two 24-hour Internet blackouts.

Since last week, security forces have brutally repressed protestors, arresting at least 700, shooting 12 people to death, and injuring hundreds.

Among those arrested is Evan Mawarire, an opposition pastor who became famous for promoting the "This Flag Citizens Movement," an initiative founded in 2016 "to speak out, ask questions and act against corruption, injustice and poverty.

Mawarire, who is charged with subversion and inciting public violence, faces 20 years in prison if convicted. His lawyer said a judge was due to hear his case at the High Court on Wednesday. Mawarire was not expected to attend the hearing.

However, a lawyers' group expressed concern that the courts were denying bail to anyone charged with public violence and, in some cases, were fast-tracking trials, threatening the right to fair hearings.

Representatives of international organizations, such as Human Rights Watch (HRW) or the International Crisis Group (ICG), accused the Zimbabwean government of "instigating" violence against its citizens and perpetuating "impunity."

This wave of protests, unusual since the fall of President Robert Mugabe in Nov. 2017, caused Mnangagwa to interrupt his trip to the World Economic Forum in Davos (Switzerland).

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