AI calls for enquiry after 10 die during eviction

Amnesty International (AI) has called for an independent inquiry into the deaths of at least 10 people at an illegal settlement earlier this month, after police reportedly fired tear-gas into the homes of residents in a bid to evict almost 10,000 squatters.

On 2 September riot police torched homes and fired teargas, despite a High Court ruling ordering the government not to evict the squatters or demolish their dwellings.

AI noted residents' claims that all those who had died during the incident had been exposed to the tear gas.

"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," the global rights watchdog said in a statement on Wednesday.

AI was "appalled by the excessive use of force by the Zimbabwe Republic Police, and deeply concerned by the deaths at Porta Farm". "Firing tear gas into a confined space is completely contrary to international human rights standards on the use of force by law-enforcement officials because of the danger posed to those exposed," the organisation said.

There was also concern over the attempt to forcibly evict the residents of Porta Farm.

"The Government of Zimbabwe has an obligation to provide access to adequate housing for all people within its jurisdiction. Any resettlement of the residents of Porta Farm must ensure that their civil, political, social and economic rights are upheld," AI stated.

Porta Farm was originally established by the government as a transit camp for homeless people taken from the streets of the capital in 1991. The authorities announced last month that residents would be relocated to make way for a sewage treatment plant to be constructed in the area.