Zimbabwe: New Report Documents Widespread Rape Related to 2008 Elections
Friday, December 18, 2009 3:40 PM

Press Release

10 December 2009 


(Johannesburg) – Members and supporters of President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party committed widespread, systematic rape in 2008 to terrorize the political opposition, said AIDS-Free World in “Electing to Rape: Sexual Terror in Mugabe’s Zimbabwe,” a report released today. These crimes against humanity have received little public attention and the government has made no effort to hold the perpetrators accountable. A concerted regional effort is needed urgently to bring both high- and low-level perpetrators to justice.
The 64-page report is based on extensive interviews with 72 survivors and witnesses, and documents 380 rapes committed by 241 perpetrators across Zimbabwe’s ten provinces.  ZANU-PF supporters who carried out the attacks, including members of the “youth militia” and former soldiers in Zimbabwe’s war of liberation known as “war veterans,” identified themselves to their victims. All the women targeted were supporters of Morgan Tsvangirai’s opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

The testimony demonstrates that the rape campaign waged by ZANU-PF in Zimbabwe was both widespread and systematic, with recurring patterns throughout that cannot be coincidental. For example, the striking similarity of rhetoric about MDC political activity made before and during the violence; the uniform physical and emotional brutality of the rapes; the specific types of beatings and weapons on common parts of the body; the modes of detention and locations of the rapes; the circumstances and concurrent crimes as part of the broader attacks; and the consistent refusal of police to investigate and refer these cases for prosecution, taken together, demonstrate a systematic, organized campaign. It is also exacerbating an HIV/AIDS crisis in a country where, according to statistics updated by the UN two weeks ago, eighteen percent of adults are infected with HIV. Rape helps to spread the virus farther and faster. 


The report asserts that in Zimbabwe, both the police and the legal infrastructure are so seriously compromised as to make justice for systematic rape inside the country impossible.  The majority of public prosecutors, magistrates, and judges are well known for their connections to ZANU-PF, making independent criminal prosecutions against ZANU-PF supporters unlikely. Zimbabwe’s domestic rape law requires that victims overcome insurmountable hurdles, and to risk the very real possibility of reprisals from authorities. And under Zimbabwe law, rape cannot be prosecuted as a concerted campaign, ordered from on high and executed on the ground.
“Electing to Rape” recognizes the severe limitations on legal accountability within Zimbabwe, and therefore looks at a number of compelling alternative routes to justice that exist in the region. High-level commanders could be tried in the courts of other African countries under the principle of universal jurisdiction.  South Africa, in particular, has a universal jurisdiction statute implementing the Rome Statute, the international treaty governing the International Criminal Court. If it so decided, South Africa could try perpetrators of serious international crimes should they enter the country. The Southern African Development Community (SADC) has its own tribunal as well as other tools – including sanctions and suspension - that it could use to censure Zimbabwe.  The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights could also hear complaints of human rights abuses, and the African Union could take action against Zimbabwe to express its disapproval.
AIDS-Free World contends that the international community has a crucial role to play. The Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) should conduct a preliminary examination of sexual crimes against humanity in Zimbabwe in 2008 with the possibility of opening an investigation into the situation in Zimbabwe. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights should conduct an independent investigation that would culminate in a public report presented at the Human Rights Council.

To read the complete press release, click here.

Compiled from: "Zimbabwe’s 2008 Elections Featured Systematic Rape",  Aids-Free World press release, 10 December 2009.