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Zimbabwe: Elections marred by voter intimidation, arrests and internet shutdowns

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Around 40 people from civil society groups arrested

Shadowy organisation with alleged linked to ruling party reportedly engaged in voter intimidation

‘The Zimbabwean authorities must guarantee reliable and unrestricted access to the internet before, during and after the election’ - Khanyo Farisè

Elections in Zimbabwe have been marred by reports of voter intimidation, the arrest of people from civil society organisations and mounting fears of a largescale internet shutdown, Amnesty International said today.

There have been reports of the arbitrary arrests of approximately 40 staff members working at civil society organisations, including the Election Resource Centre and the Zimbabwe Election Support Network. The arrests came after the Zimbabwe NGO Forum released a report detailing irregularities they had observed on election day.

Internet connections were also reportedly seriously affected for millions of people in the country on Tuesday, yet the Zimbabwean authorities have failed to share any information about the cause of connectivity problems or of any measures being taken to address them.

Zimbabwe is currently holding presidential, parliamentary and local government elections, with polls originally scheduled to run from 7am to 7pm on 23 August, though these had to be extended in many polling stations in Harare and Bulawayo. Many polling stations were unable to open on time due to the Electoral Commission’s failure to distribute ballots, with some locations receiving ballot papers as late as 4pm.

Zimbabwe has a history of violent and disputed elections with opposition parties repeatedly accusing the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union - Patriotic Front party of being behind the attacks. Amnesty has previously documented similar election-related human rights violations in Zimbabwe, including in 2008 when more than 200 people were killed during and after the election amid rampant violence against opposition supporters.

Khanyo Farisè, Amnesty International’s Southern Africa Deputy Director, said:

“We are deeply concerned by disturbing reports of widespread voter intimidation by Forever Associates of Zimbabwe - a shadow organisation allegedly linked to the ruling party.

“All members of civil society who were arrested should be immediately and unconditionally released - they should never have to face intimidation and harassment simply for doing their work.

“The Zimbabwean authorities must guarantee reliable and unrestricted access to the internet before, during and after the election.

“The authorities must allow everyone to freely exercise their human rights - including the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, association, and access to information - before, during and after the elections.”

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