http://www.pambazuka.org/images/articles/365/47598beat.jpgFurther to the two statements ZADHR issued last week we report a further 81 cases of organised violence and torture which have been seen and treated by members of the Association in the three days ending Monday 21 April 2008. This is not a cumulative total – this is the number of cases seen in these 3 days alone. The total number of cases seen since 1 April 2008 is 323. It seems likely that there are substantial numbers of similar cases occurring across the country which have not presented to ZADHR members and are therefore not represented in these figures.
54 of these cases occurred in Harare, Chitungwiza or Epworth, 20 in Glen View alone. 13 more occurred in Mudzi and Murewa, 4 in Mount Darwin, and 6 in different areas of Manicaland.
By far the commonest alleged perpetrators are now the uniformed forces (ZRP and ZNA).
Fourteen (17%) of these 81 patients were women. They include a 7 year old girl who suffered a fracture of her right radius and ulna on falling down while running after her father who was being chased by members of the security forces, and a 10 year old boy with a probable dislocation of the right elbow resulting from being kicked by a soldier who was trying to kick someone else. One 47 year old woman reported being sexually assaulted.
Soft tissue injuries again predominate, with 6 probable fractures. These include the case of a 39 year old man who was abducted from his home at midnight, was beaten and suffered a fractured left ulna, fractured ribs on the left side, and a pneumothorax underlying the rib fractures. A pneumothorax is when air leaks out of the lung through a hole in the lining of the lung, caused for example by a broken rib, and collects in the virtual space between the linings of the lung and the inner surface of the chest wall. It can rapidly threaten life because it may enlarge and cause collapse of the lung itself and distortion of the large blood vessels arising from and draining into the heart. This patient required a tube to be inserted into his chest to prevent that complication.
4 cases of falanga were recorded. Falanga is torture in which the soles of the feet are repeatedly beaten with a hard object such as a baton or bar. There is often severe tissue damage beneath the skin, within the sole of the foot, which never fully heals, resulting in walking being painful for the rest of the victim’s life.
Physical injuries are the most visible. Many of these patients report extreme psychological stress which itself results in both mental and physical symptoms. The stresses reported include many having had their homes and property completely burnt, being forced to roll in muddy or sewage-containing water, running and hiding in ‘the bush’ from fear of assault, being abducted and detained with beatings continuing over several days with no knowledge of when it will end, and having no knowledge of the safety of spouse or children. One 64 year old man presented with full-blown ‘Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder’, the major manifestation of which was his being incapable of speech.
Some of the reported physical and psychological wounds will take a long time and require much care and attention to heal.
ZADHR condemns the continuing violent assault and torture on Zimbabwean citizens, in particular that allegedly perpetrated by security forces. We continue to appeal to the UN, AU and SADC to engage with the authorities to bring an end to this systematic assault on large numbers of Zimbabweans.
ZADHR further appeals to the Zimbabwe Medical Association, the World Medical Association and other concerned national medical associations to condemn these acts of violence, and engage their Governments in working towards resolution of the crisis in Zimbabwe.
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