Zimbabwe: 'shock' at treason charges after North Africa protests lecture
Amnesty International today expressed shock that at least 45 Zimbabwean activists have been charged with treason and could face the death penalty following their arrest at a lecture on the protests in North Africa.
“These persistent abuses demonstrate the need for urgent reform of Zimbabwe’s security sector to bring to an end a culture of impunity for human rights violations and partisan enforcement of the law.”
Defence lawyers told Amnesty they had been denied the opportunity to consult their clients and were only informed of the charges facing the activists minutes before they were brought before the court. The proceedings were adjourned following protests from the lawyers and are expected to resume on Monday (28 February).
Amnesty is also concerned about reports that prison officers at the Magistrates court in Harare prevented the defence lawyers from taking instructions from their clients before they were transferred to Harare Remand Prison and Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison.
“The police continue to selectively apply the law in favour of President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party.”
Last month ZANU-PF supporters carried out attacks against opposition supporters in Harare’s suburb of Mbare, but to date, the police have not arrested anyone.
Notes to editors:
Munyaradzi Gwisai is a former Movement for Democratic Change parliamentarian. He is now a law lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe and the coordinator of the Zimbabwean chapter of the International Socialist Organisation.
The activists are being charged with treason under Section 20 of the Criminal (Codification and Reform) Act [Chapter 9:23] or alternatively “attempting to overthrow the government by unconstitutional means” under Section 22(2)(a)(i) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act.