Armed police violently broke up a demonstration of lawyers today, subjecting them to punishment beatings as passing motorists stopped and watched in horror.
One group was corralled on to a truck and taken to open grassland in a suburb of Harare, where they were assaulted as they lay on the ground.
The victims included Beatrice Mtetwa, president of the Law Society of Zimbabwe and winner of a 2005 press freedom award given in New York by the Committee to Protect Journalists.
Lawyers were confronted by police with rubber truncheons, automatic rifles and shotguns as they gathered outside the High Court to protest against the arrest of two prominent human rights lawyers.
Some of the lawyers, including Eileen Sawyer, 80, the executive director of the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, an alliance of civil liberty bodies, stood their ground, but in the face of the lashing truncheons they were forced to flee.
Ms Sawyer received several blows on her back. “I thought, ‘Oh my god, I’m going to break my pelvis again’,” she said. At least five people were treated for severe bruising.
President Robert Mugabe has encouraged security forces to deal violently with protests against his regime.
In March, after Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai and about 30 other officials of his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) suffered severe injuries inflicted by police, Mr Mugabe said of his critics: “They will get arrested and get bashed by police.”