The Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) has expressed concern over increasing reports of police brutality in enforcing COVID-19 prevention measures.
The displeasure follows video clips circulating on various social media platforms of police harassing drivers and beating up pedestrians not wearing face masks at market places, bus depots and on the streets in the name of enforcing the measures.
According to CHRR Executive Director (ED) Michael Kaiyatsa, despite the need to curb the spread of the virus and prevent further deaths, using the Police to violently enforce COVID-19 preventive measures will not be effective and will do more harm than good.
“Experience from past and present epidemics like HIV and AIDS shows clearly that responses to health crises such as COVID-19 work best in the context of community understanding, trust, cooperation and, generally, respect for human rights,” reasoned Kaiyatsa.
The human rights lobby group says people will cooperate better if they understand why they have to wear face masks or why they have to observe social distancing.
But commenting on the concerns, National Police spokesperson James Kadadzera says the law enforcing agency has received the complaints and seen the said videos.
Kadadzera has said police will investigate the reports and that appropriate action will be taken despite stressing that the law enforces have a mandate of making sure that the measures are adhered to.
In the meantime, CHRR has reminded authorities of their pledge to respect the rule of law and human rights principles in which the country`s governance structure is rooted.
“Authorities need to get the public to comply and modify their behaviour, whether Police are watching or not.
The public is not the enemy here – the virus is, and we need informed consent to get the kind of compliance that can turn the situation around,” said the CHRR.