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Labour | Politics | Human rights

Zimbabwe unionist "tortured in detention"

ZCTU Secretary-General Wellington Chibebe:
«Tortured by Zimbabwe police officers.»

© Crisis Coalition Zimbabwe / afrol News
afrol News, 15 September
- Around 12 Zimbabwean trade union leaders, including ZCTU Secretary-General Wellington Chibebe, claim to have been tortured while in police detention in Harare. They were amongst 250 trade unionists and other civilians, including approximately 100 women and several infants, arrested nationwide following a peaceful protest on Wednesday.

According to the Zimbabwean Council of Trade Unions (ZCTU), 12 of its leaders were tortured by Zimbabwean authorities while in detention. Mr Chibebe "has had his arm broken" and both him and ZCTU President Lovemore Matombo were "beaten, sustaining cranial/facial bruising and other head injuries," according to information from the global trade unionist movement ICFTU.

At least 12 out of the more than 50 detained ZCTU protest organisers had subjected to police brutality or outright torture, according to the unionists. ZCTU First Vice President Lucia Matibenga and other prisoners have also reported being "beaten on the soles of their feet, having their heads bashed against prison walls and being stamped and kicked in the head," ICFTU said.

The around 50 detained ZCTU leaders were amongst 250 trade unionists and other civilians, including approximately 100 women and several infants, arrested nationwide following calls to stage peaceful protest marches that called for decent wages, action on Zimbabwe's 1,200 percent inflation rate and better access to life-saving anti-viral drugs for AIDS sufferers.

"At the latest count, 92 trade unionists remain in custody," ICFTU said today. The detained however finally had received access to medical attention today, despite the fact that some of them have had eating and hearing problems resulting from their injuries for the past two days. ZCTU members had been arrested and held detained in Harare, Beitbridge, Bulawayo, Mutare and other urban centres.

Human rights groups today also voiced concern over a group of around 100 Zimbabwean women and five babies of the organisation Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA), who reportedly have been held detained since 11 September. hey were arrested ahead of a planned peaceful sit-in at Town House in Harare, to protest against deteriorating services in the capital. Among those arrested and detained at Harare Central Police Station was a pregnant woman who reportedly became unwell while in police custody.

The prolonged detention of ZCTU and WOZA members and the use of torture against many of the detained has led to strong protests from human rights groups today. Amnesty International said it was "gravely concerned" by the reports, and called for an "immediate release" of the detained. Sympathisers were urged to write protest letters to the Zimbabwean police.

Also the ICFTU labour movement today strongly condemned the Harare government. "These latest reports of brutality must be condemned by the entire international community, and the world trade union movement will do everything within its power to mobile international pressure to put a stop this reign of terror," ICFTU Secretary-General Guy Ryder said in a statement today.

Harare police officers today confirmed that several trade union leaders were hospitalised after being released from detention. Police spokespersons however strongly denied any brutal episodes at the detention centres.

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