The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) has accused the police of brutality and violating the rights of protesters when clamping down on anti-government demonstrations in the past two months.
Political tension is rising in the country, where public anger at the dire state of the economy, in particular an 80% jobless rate, cash shortages and delays in salaries for public workers has spilled onto the streets.
Zimbabwe’s police have a history of violence against President Robert Mugabe’s opponents and last month a trauma clinic said dozens of people, including children, had suffered savage abuse after a demonstration.
Police spokeswoman Charity Charamba declined to comment on the findings of the ZHRC, an independent body formed in 2013.
In its first statement on the protests, the commission said its investigations had revealed “unbecoming and violent conduct” by police officers and urged victims to make formal complaints.
“It is noted with regret that the police did violate the fundamental rights of the people as evidenced by the facts gathered on the ground,” it said.
“Security concerns should not be used as an excuse to harass demonstrators . . . Citizens should enjoy police protection and not brutality.”
The ZHRC also said demonstrations should be peaceful, after protests on Friday descended into some of the worst violence seen in the former British colony for two decades.
Sixty-eight people were charged with public violence after Friday’s clashes. A court was set to rule yesterday whether they should be released from custody while they await trial.
More anti-government protests are planned for today and Friday.
Mugabe has said there would be no “Arab Spring” in Zimbabwe, referring to a wave of revolts in the Middle East and North Africa in 2011.