Who guards the guards? Violations by Law Enforcement Agencies in Zimbabwe, 2000 to 2006
A democratic state is one in which the government respects human rights, will freely allow democratic activity, and whose law enforcement agencies will try to protect all persons against violation of their rights, regardless of the political affiliation of the people involved. The role of the police in a democracy is summed up in Article 1 of the United Nations Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials as follows:
Law enforcement officials shall at all times fulfil the duty imposed upon them by law, by serving the community and by protecting all persons against illegal acts, consistent with the high degree of responsibility required by their profession.
In stark contrast, a repressive regime with no respect for human rights will disallow ordinary democratic activity, and will use the law enforcement agencies to stifle dissent and opposition. The law enforcement agencies will themselves become the main human rights violators and a source of fear for those being targeted. A state in which this situation prevails is described pejoratively as “a police state”.
The last time the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum issued a specific report concerning the conduct of members of the Zimbabwe Republic Police [ZRP] was in 2003. In that report the Forum made serious allegations about the involvement of the ZRP in torture. The 2003 report was based on reports that the Forum and its member organisations had received in the period from January 2001 to August 2002.