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Zimbabwe: New report reveals catalogue of abuses against human rights campaigners

In a new report, Zimbabwe: Human Rights Defenders Under Siege, Amnesty International catalogues the misuse of state power against those who campaign to protect human rights. These include:

  • the involvement of the Zimbabwe police in several cases of serious assault on human rights campaigners and a failure to bring those responsible to justice
  • the arbitrary arrest of hundreds of human rights campaigners, including a two-year persecution of the Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights’s activist group Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights of Zimbabwe Arise
  • systematic government attacks on the independence of judges and lawyers with repeated harassment and assault forcing several to resign or retire
  • the use of repressive media laws to close down independent newspapers
  • the revival of repressive laws introduced under the white minority regime of Ian Smith, such as the Private Voluntary Organisations Act
  • the introduction of the NGO Bill, which bans international human rights organisations from operating in Zimbabwe and severely restricts the work of national human rights groups
  • the use of state-controlled media to intimidate human rights campaigners and discredit the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights and its recently published report on the human rights situation in Zimbabwe

Examples of continued harassment and persecution documented in the report include:

  • For more than two years hundreds of Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) activists have been repeatedly arrested by the Zimbabwe police while taking part in peaceful demonstrations, and then verbally and physically abused in police custody. Babies and young Children's rights have been detained with their mothers, sometimes overnight in police cells.

    On the evening of 31 March 2005 (the day of Zimbabwe’s Parliamentary elections), police arrested approximately 260 Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights, some carrying babies, when WOZA attempted to hold a peaceful post-election prayer vigil at Africa Unity Square in Harare.

    During and after those arrests, several of the WOZA activists were badly beaten. Amongst those beaten by police was a 74 year-old woman, who reports that she was told to "pray because you are going to die".

  • Dr Lovemore Madhuku, Chairman of the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA), was severely beaten by police officers in February 2004 after a peaceful NCA demonstration was broken up by the police using tear gas, dogs and batons.

    Dr Madhuku was taken from the site of the demonstration, severely beaten by the police and dumped on the outskirts of the city. He was hospitalised for several days. No investigation into the assault was ever conducted.

Kolawole Olaniyan, Director of the Africa programme at Amnesty International, said:

"Hundreds of ordinary Zimbabweans, who have fought to protect the rights of their fellow citizens, have faced intimidation, arbitrary arrest, assault and torture at the hands of a government intent on concealing its violation of human rights.

"The government must ensure that those responsible for all human rights violations are brought to justice, and that laws that violate international human rights standards are repealed."

Amnesty International calls on the Zimbabwe Government to ensure there are independent investigations of all cases of police assault, torture, unlawful arrest and detention.

Kolawole Olaniyan continued:

"This sustained attack on Zimbabwe’s human rights campaigners speaks volumes about the length to which the government will go to cover up human rights abuses and prevent criticism of its actions."

View a copy of the report online

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