[JURIST] Torture and other human rights abuses in Zimbabwe have become so commonplace that they constitute a crime against humanity, according to a study [text, PDF] for the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR) [advocacy website] prepared by Tony Reeler of the Harare-based Research and Advocacy Unit (RAU). Reeler synthesized data collected by numerous human rights organizations and found that regardless of the methodology employed, each group reached the same result: torture and other forms of intimidation are widespread and apparently sanctioned by the state. The study notes that the abuse has declined since a power-sharing agreement was reached between the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) [party website] and the Zimbabwe African National Union–Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) [party website], but that the institutionalization of abuse is an impediment to reaching a lasting peace in the country.
The RAU study follows a similar report issued [JURIST report] last week by Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website]. That report found that Zimbabwe is still experiencing serious human rights violations [press release], such as the arrest and detention of human rights activists, and needs to confront issues that led to such problems. Last month, a Zimbabwe court released 15 human rights activists on bail, including activist and journalist Jestina Mukoko [advocacy website; JURIST news archive]. Mukoko, the director of the Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP) [advocacy website], was indicted with others for allegedly planning a coup against Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe [BBC profile]. After being held without charges from December through March and allegedly tortured, Mukoko was hospitalized [Zimbabwe Times report] for the treatment of injuries sustained while in custody. While detained, it was reported that Mukoko was forced to ingest poison [JURIST report], sparking a world-wide protest against Zimbabwean police tactics.