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Zimbabwe: Another death at Porta Farm

Zimbabwe: Another death at Porta Farm - 11 people now dead following police misuse of tear gas

As the death toll rises at Porta Farm following police misuse of tear gas during an attempt to forcibly evict residents, Amnesty International is repeating its call for an immediate, full and independent inquiry into the actions of the police and the subsequent deaths. Of the 11 people known to have died so far, five are children under the age of one. On 22 September Amnesty International reported that 10 people had died at Porta Farm, following exposure to tear gas. Relatives of the 10 deceased have confirmed this information to Amnesty International in sworn affidavits.

An eleventh person, Angeline Nhamoinesu, aged 46, has since died. Her relatives report that she also became sick after being exposed to tear gas on 2 September 2004. They have requested a post-mortem.

All 11 deaths were reported to Norton Police Station or to a Police Post based at Porta Farm by relatives of the deceased. In accordance with Zimbabwe law, relatives obtained permission from the police before they buried their dead. According to Zimbabwean and South African media, the Zimbabwe Republic Police have denied that any Porta Farm residents died following the events of 2 September. Amnesty International, with the permission of relatives, is naming the deceased.

They are: Fungai Livson's one-day-old son (he had not been given a name); Ronald Job Daniel (5 months); Matilda Matsheza, (5 months); Yolanda Rungano (5 months); Monalisa Banda (7 months); Kuyeka Phiri (aged 30); Viola Mupetsi (aged 30); Julia Nheredzo (aged 32); Raphael Chatima (aged 40) and Vasco John (aged 65).

"The Government of Zimbabwe must ensure that police behaviour at Porta Farm on 2 September 2004, including the use of tear gas by police officers and the 11 deaths which followed, are rigorously investigated, and the results of the investigation made public," Amnesty International said. "Any police officer responsible for breaches of police procedures and violation of human rights must be brought to justice."

Since making its first public statement on the situation at Porta Farm, Amnesty International has received information alleging that residents are being subjected to intimidation by members of the Zimbabwe Republic Police.

"The Zimbabwean authorities should ensure that such intimidation ceases immediately and that the allegations are fully investigated. Residents of Porta Farm must receive the full protection of the law," Amnesty International said.

Background

On 2 September 2004, riot police, war veterans and members of the youth "militia" reportedly went to Porta Farm to forcibly evict some 10,000 people, many of whom have been living there since 1991. The police were acting in defiance of a court order prohibiting the eviction. According to eye-witness testimony the police fired tear gas directly into the homes of the Porta Farm residents.

Doctors who examined some of the Porta Farm residents following the events of 2 September believe that those most seriously affected by the tear gas were particularly vulnerable due to pre-existing illnesses such as tuberculosis.

On 22 September 2004 Amnesty International expressed grave concern about the police action at Porta Farm, and the deaths which followed. Since then, a spokesman for the Zimbabwe Republic Police has been quoted in the Zimbabwe Independent on Friday 24 September, and in the South African newspaper Business Day (Johannesburg) on 28 September saying the Zimbabwe Republic Police are unaware of the deaths at Porta Farm.

Zimbabwe in the AI Report 2004: http://amnesty-news.c.topica.com/maacH6Labat7Sbb0hPub/

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