Zimbabwe: UN expert calls for halt to use of lethal force against unarmed activists

Zimbabwe: UN expert calls for halt to use of lethal force against unarmed activists

An independent United Nations human rights expert today urged the Zimbabwean Government to immediately halt its use of lethal force against unarmed political activists.

Philip Alston, the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, made his call in a statement which emphasized that the deadly force was a clear violation of international human rights law.

“The Government is, in effect, instructing its forces to shoot innocent people, in complete disregard for the right to life,” he said, adding that this “reflects no attempt to balance the rights to political participation and to freedom of expression and association with any legitimate notion of the need to maintain public order.”

The Special Rapporteur said particularly troubling fatalities included the killing of Gift Tandare, the shooting of Nickson Magondo and Naison Mashambanhaka at point blank range and the deaths of eight to 10 persons at Harare hospitals from injuries consistent with being beaten by State security agents with blunt instruments.

“Full, independent investigations must be undertaken as soon as possible,” he declared.

According to international legal standards, military and police officers may use lethal force only when doing so is strictly necessary for self-defence or the defence of another’s life, he said, while governments that order their forces to shoot are violating international human rights law.

“Under international law, widespread or systematic attacks against the civilian population are crimes against humanity,” Mr. Alston added. “Members of the police and military who comply with orders to gun down demonstrators will eventually be held to account.”