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EU slams 'disproportionate' use of force in Zimbabwe

The EU also asked that the government "conduct a thorough investigation into the deaths and abuses over the last days."

A man is loaded into a car after allegedly being assaulted by soldiers on 16 January 2019 in Sizinda township, Bulawayo, as Zimbabwe is swept by violent protests triggered by a sharp, sudden rise in fuel prices. Picture: AFP

BRUSSELS - The European Union (EU) on Thursday decried the disproportionate use of force by Zimbabwe authorities during protests in which doctors say 68 people suffered gunshot wounds.

"The escalation of violence in Zimbabwe over recent days has been aggravated by the disproportionate use of force by security personnel," European Commission spokesperson Maja Kocijancic said in a statement.

"We expect the Government of Zimbabwe to uphold human rights and the rule of law, as enshrined in the constitution, and ensure due legal process for those detained," the statement added.

The EU also asked that the government "conduct a thorough investigation into the deaths and abuses over the last days."

Nationwide demonstrations erupted on Monday after President Emmerson Mnangagwa announced that fuel prices were being doubled in a country suffering regular shortages of fuel, food and medicine.

Mnangagwa, who succeeded ousted authoritarian President Robert Mugabe in 2017, had promised a fresh start for Zimbabwe after decades of repression and economic decline.

Brussels acknowledged that the Harare government had chosen the path of economic reforms, but said these could only be achieved through "inclusive national dialogue" that included "freedom of assembly, association and expression".

"Zimbabwe's efforts to promote investment and to deepen international partnerships can only be successful if these essential requirements are fulfilled," the EU said.

Trade unions had called the national strike on Monday and the demonstrations took place in several cities with widespread rioting and looting.

Security forces have since arrested about 600 suspects, including leading trade unionists and opposition figures, in a crackdown also decried by rights groups.

Police and soldiers have been accused of indiscriminately dragging people from their homes in Harare and beating them.

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