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Police executions unsettle rights lawyers



THE Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum has flagged the shoot-to-kill policy of the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) on armed robbers, after it emerged that some incidents involving the killing of suspects now resemble extrajudicial executions.


Ahead of Christmas last year, police detectives from the Harare Criminal Investigations Department homicide section shot and killed robbery suspect Godkows Machingura in Harare, aged 44 at the time.

According to a police report, the CID detectives trailed Machingura and his five friends who included Paul Zhou and Jabulani Ngobeni, after they were tipped off on their plot to commit several robberies including hits on some prominent individuals for ransom.

The police report said Machingura succumbed to a gunshot wound in the groin after a shootiut in Harare’s Arcadia suburb.

However, his family has since disputed the police account of the matter, insisting Machingura was a victim of police execution. This was after five bullet wounds were observed on is body during the post-mortem.

The family said he had two shots in the head, one gunshot below the ribs, and two gunshots on his legs.

This week, The NewsHawks obtained the original copy of the autopsy results compiled by a Harare pathologist which confirms the family’s account.

It says his cause of death was not natural. The pathologist outlines three reasons for Machingura’s death which point to police execution.

The autopsy report says he had lung wounds, gunshot wounds and suffered hemorrhagic shock.

Hemorrhagic shock is caused by heavy blood loss, caused by internal or external bleeding.
Before Machingura’s case, there have also been several incidents where police claim an armed robber was shot dead while fleeing during indications.

Indications are incidents when police, after arrest, take a suspect to the crime scene to understand and gather evidence of the criminal activity.

The suspects would ordinarily be under police custody.

In an interview with The NewsHawks this week, Wilbert Mandinde, the acting director of the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, said his organisation is concerned with what seems to be the extrajudicial execution of suspected robbers.

He said police must always endeavour to arrest suspects and take them to court in line with the due process of law.

“As the Zimbabwe Human rights NGO Forum we are concerned about the police shoot-to-kill policy. We want to start by applauding the good way the police would do, in apprehending criminals, certainly that’s something which has to be commendable.

“And we also are clear that police should also work to protect themselves. That is a use of defence as and when they are under attack. We certainly have no problem with police doing that.

“We are however concerned about the high rate of these shootings that are currently happening at the moment. And there is every scope for us to believe that police are simply executing all suspected armed robbers. We believe that is wrong,” he said.

Mandinde said at law police do not have the mandate to execute suspects.

“Police do not have the mandate to do that. Police should arrest and take people to court where they could be tried, convicted and sentenced. We are worried about this particular thing that we tend to hear that people either attempt to escape or grab guns and fight over guns with police.

“And we always wonder whether when they take these armed robbers out for incident, they do not use leg irons, for example, or handcuff them at the back,” he said.

Mandinde said the handling of robbery suspects after they are arrested can be equated to the treatment political prisoners are subjected to.

“As we have seen with other cases, including cases of political prisoners, we would see Jacob Ngarivhume coming to court in leg irons. We would see Job Sikhala coming to court in leg irons. But we are wondering whether the leg irons are only for political prisoners and not meant also to be used on armed robbers?” he asked.

“So this issue is concerning. Another issue of concern for us pertains to the fact that we no longer have an Inquests Act which was replaced by the Coroner’s Act. But we are aware that in terms of the law the Coroner’s Act has not yet been given a date upon which it will come into operation.

“That has left us with a gap in terms of the law. We are also concerned about the delays in coming up and finalising the selection of the commissioners for the Zimbabwe Independent Complaints Commission.”

Mandinde, a former magistrate, said an independent complaints commission to look into the conduct of police regarding upholding of human rights is key.

“We believe that there must be a Zimbabwe Independent Complaints Commission is properly instituted and properly independent. It will be in a position to then carry out proper inquiries into these complaints that we now have against the police because we do not believe that the police have the capacity to investigate themselves in this particular matter,” he said.

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