Zimbabwe women urged to report rape by soldiers

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Zimbabwe women urged to report rape by soldiers

Image caption From a safe house, some women told the BBC how they had been raped during the raids

Women allegedly raped by the security forces during night raids to suppress recent protests have been urged to report their cases to the police.

The information minister said only one attack has been officially reported despite numerous allegations, the state-run Herald newspaper reports.

The BBC has spoken to six women who said they were raped by soldiers.

Correspondents say there is widespread mistrust of the police, who were also involved in the crackdown on protests.

The state-funded Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission has accused soldiers of using "systematic torture" in the crackdown on protests that broke out a fortnight ago following a more than doubling in fuel prices. It has strongly criticised the authorities for using troops to quell demonstrations.

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The BBC spoke to six women who had sought refuge at a safe house about their experiences during the night-time door-to-door raids by the security forces.

One of the women said: "They slapped me, then said they want to have sex with me. When I refused, they slapped me again. The first soldier had unprotected sex with me. Then the other one said, 'I want to do the same.'"

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Media captionVictims tell of being beaten and shot by Zimbabwe's security forces

Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa said the government did not condone and or tolerate "criminal behaviour by any member of society particularly those in positions of trust".

"All women, who were allegedly raped, are encouraged to come forward and report the cases to the Zimbabwe Republic Police Victim Friendly Unit, which can be found at every police station around the country," The Herald quotes her as saying in a statement.

"The unit is led by a female commissioner, hence, all affected women will be treated with empathy, compassion, respect and due care. Their safety will be guaranteed," she added.

Angry lawyers

Police say more than 1,000 people, including some children, have been arrested in the crackdown.

Image caption Those charged in connection with the protests have been denied bail in a pattern lawyers say is a violation of their rights

The BBC's Shingai Nyoka in Harare says hundreds of lawyers protested on Tuesday in the capital, Harare, against the mass arrests and torture of alleged protesters in detention.

They accused some judges and magistrates of being complicit in human rights violations by fast-tracking of the trials of protesters and denying them bail.

Later in the day, the High Court ordered the release of pastor Evan Mawarire, a prominent activist who has been charged with subversion for calling a three-day stayaway in protest at the rise in fuel prices.

Meanwhile, police say they have arrested an officer seen assaulting a protester in a TV report.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa had ordered the arrest of three men caught on camera assaulting a handcuffed civilian on Saturday.

The officer arrested on Tuesday, Constable Mukamire, had been off duty as he had been suspended in September 2018, the police statement said.

"The security services have always been emphasising that bogus and rogue elements are responsible for acts of lawlessness, which are tarnishing good standing of the security forces," police spokesperson Charity Charamba said.

She urged members of the public who had "suffered similar ordeals" to come forward and report such incidents to the police.

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