Harare: A government-appointed human rights group in Zimbabwe has accused soldiers of using "systematic torture" in a crackdown on protesters after unrest broke out more than a week ago following a sharp rise in fuel prices.
The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission strongly has criticised authorities for using troops to quell the demonstrations, the BBC reported.
The Commission in its report said at least eight deaths have been reported since last week, "mostly attributed to use of live ammunition". Other reports though said at least 12 people have been killed and scores treated for gunshot injuries.
"Armed and uniformed members of the Zimbabwe National Army and the Zimbabwe Republic Police instigated systematic torture. The torture was organised in that they targeted men who stay near areas where barricades had been placed and near areas that were torched by protesters or looted," it said.
Reports of the assaults allegedly carried out by the military in various parts of the capital here emerged after a man told the media that he and about 30 others were rounded up and beaten by soldiers.
The Commission's report also said of security forces entering houses at night and making men, and even boys as young as 11, lie on the ground where they were then beaten.
"The deployment of the army in quelling civilian disturbances leads to loss of life and serious bodily injuries and other human rights violations, yet the government continues to make such deployments," the statement said.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa broke off his trip to Europe to deal with the continuing unrest. He had been due to attend the Davos economic summit where he was expected to seek investment for Zimbabwe, the BBC reported.
Mnangagwa, 76, who used the troops to bring him to power 14 months ago, took to Twitter to urge all sides to work together to fix a broken economy. After coming to power, he had promised that abuses against civilians will not be tolerated.
In a series of tweets, he said violence or misconduct by security forces was "unacceptable and a betrayal of the new Zimbabwe", adding: "If required, heads will roll."