Doctors report escalation of violence & intimidation

By Tererai Karimakwenda
April 25, 2008

The Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights have released a report expressing deep concern over the escalating cases of organised violence and torture and the increasing intimidation of medical personnel. The report says over 900 victims of violence have been documented in the post election period. But they stress that this figure grossly underestimates the problem because many cases go unreported countrywide and the violence is so widespread that it is impossible to properly document all the cases.

The report said there are 22 confirmed deaths - at least double that number have been reported but some are not yet confirmed. There are also allegations that some of those killed have been buried on the orders of state agents before the cases were documented. Victims are showing up for treatment in large numbers daily. In the last 24 hours alone, 30 victims of violence were treated for limb fractures in Harare hospitals and clinics. One hospital treated an average of 23 victims a day over the last week. Most health centres are reported to have run out of supplies of Plaster of Paris bandages.

On the 8th May, there were a total 53 more seriously injured patients (13 females and 40 males) admitted to wards in 3 Harare hospitals. These included one 30 year old man on life support in the intensive care unit with severe, irreversible head injuries and a 30 year old man with severe soft tissue injuries to the buttocks and secondary renal failure, also on life support. Both of these patients died later that day.

The Doctors said they are concerned that many victims are not receiving treatment, especially those from remote rural areas where there is no access to transport. There are also widespread reports that some victims are being denied treatment at health centres where the staff have been intimidated. At some centres staff are acting under specific instructions from state agents not to treat victims of violence, especially if they are opposition supporters. The report said there is evidence that the police themselves are being intimidated.

The victims being treated have identified the perpetrators as war veterans, armed security forces and ZANU-PF youth militia. There were a few acts of violence that victims attributed to opposition members, and these appeared to have been retaliation or self-defense.

Dr Douglas Gwatidzo, chairperson of the Doctors Association, confirmed the escalation of violence, saying the attacks went from an average of 5 per day last week to about 20 or 30 per day at one hospital this week. He said there is uniformity in the attacks that points to some kind of central command. The victims have ranged in age from a 3-year old boy to someone over 80. Dr Gwatidzo said they have been gathering affidavits from the victims to be used as evidence of the injuries.

On Friday morning ambassadors from the United States, European Union, Germany, Sweden, and Angola visited some of the victims of the violence in hospital in Harare.
An elderly lady injured on the back and buttocks, said she was attacked by youths with knives and axes.
"How can an 84-year-old be assaulted simply because her children are MDC," US ambassador James McGee asked. "They (Zanu-PF) can't deny it. This is absolute brutality."


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