(Harare) – Zimbabwe authorities should uphold the rights of everyone detained following the military takeover of the government on November 15, 2017, Human Rights Watch said today. The military should publicly acknowledge the identities and location of everyone arrested and detained, and ensure that their due process rights, including access to lawyers and family members, are 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,” said Dewa Mavhinga, Southern Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Failing to disclose the whereabouts of those detained is an enforced disappearance that places detainees at greater risk of abuse.”
During the military takeover, Maj. Gen. S.B. Moyo announced the military’s avowed aim of arresting “criminals around Mugabe.” Media reports indicate the military arrested a number of former president Robert Mugabe’s associates and that they remain in detention. However, the military has not provided information about any arrest, location, and conditions of detention, or reasons for arrest.
Close relatives of Finance Minister Ignatious Chombo told Human Rights Watch that the military arrested and detained him. The state-controlled weekly, the Sunday Mail, 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.
The Zimbabwe constitution provides for the pretrial 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 Peoples’ 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.
“The end of Mugabe’s 37 years of abusive rule should not be marked by continued rights violations,” Mavhinga said. “Respect for the rule of law and due process for anyone in detention would signal a clean break with the past.”