We Have Degrees in Violence: A report on torture and human rights abuses in Zimbabwe

Originally published



The 2008 Presidential campaign has already begun. This violence is the strategy of the ruling party. They want to eliminate opposition now so that the situation will appear calm in the period before the election.

-Zimbabwean Human Rights

It is less than one year before Zimbabwe will hold the presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for March 2008. Since early 2007 the country has been subject to an upsurge in political violence that has seriously undermined the democratic process and created a presumption that these elections will not be free and fair. State-any individuals or groups who are perceived to be critical of President Robert Mugabe, his government or his policies, manifests a strategy to demobilize Zimbabweans from mounting or supporting an organized opposition campaign. The international community and Southern African Democratic Community (SADC) have attempted to play a role in encouraging a democratic process by introducing South Africa's between the ruling and opposition parties. However, the international community remains ineffective in its efforts to stop states-sponsored violence in Zimbabwe.

On March 11, 2007 a coalition of church and civic organizations known as the Save Zimbabwe Campaign, organized a township near the capital Harare. Police used violence and arrests to prevent the peaceful prayer rally. They shot to death an unarmed activist, Gift Tandare, and subsequently arrested several leaders of the major opposition party-the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) as well as rank and file attendees. While the brutal beatings and interference with medical care of the prominent MDC leaders following March 11 received considerable media attention, the persisting torture and political violence,(1) particularly that perpetrated activists, against have not been documented by international health and human rights experts. This sponsored violence that occurred in the wake of the highly publicized events of March 11, 2007.

Researchers from the Advocate for Survivors of Torture traveled to South Africa and Zimbabwe during the last week of April and first two weeks of May 2007 nongovernmental organizations to evaluate reports of torture and political violence. This report is based on the detailed testimony and medical examination of 24 individuals who were subjected to torture or political violence during March and April 2007. Additionally, interviews were conducted with more than 30 health professionals, human rights advocates and violence directed representatives of non-governmental organizations in Zimbabwe and South Africa.

This investigation, the health professionals with expertise in the evaluation documentation and treatment of torture victims since the March 2007 violence, provides evidence that the Zimbabwean government is systematically utilizing torture and violence as a means of deterring political president, Thabo Mbeki, as a mediator opposition. This state-low-level political organizers sponsored violence in Zimbabwe in addition to the prominent members of the political opposition. The medical evaluations of recent victims of torture and political violence document physical and psychological evidence of violent human rights abuses and the devastating health consequences of rally in Highfield, a such political violence. Victims were detained under inhuman conditions and denied appropriate access to medical and legal assistance. Members of civil society, including doctors and lawyers assisting victims of political violence, described being subjected to rank and file attendees.harassment by government authorities.


(1) For this report, individuals subjected to torture if the experience(s) they reported were considered by the examining physicians to meet criteria for torture as defined in the Torture. (See Methods Section Individuals were classified political violence if the experience(s) they reported was considered, by the examining physicians, to be a violent act as a result of their political activities or beliefs, but which was not considered, necessarily, to constitute torture.