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Zimbabwe: Trade unionists in detention at risk of torture

Amnesty International supporters are urging authorities in Zimbabwe to immediately release two leading trade unionists who have been detained solely for peacefully exercising their basic human rights.

The President and Secretary General of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) – Lovemore Matombo and Wellington Chibebe respectively – are believed to be in grave danger of torture after they were arrested on 8 May.

The two men handed themselves in to police after officers searched for them at their homes. They were brought before a magistrate on 12 May and charged with “communicating falsehoods prejudicial to the state”, in connection with speeches they made during May Day celebrations in Harare on 1 May. The magistrate refused them bail and remanded them in custody until 23 May.

They are currently held at Harare Central Remand Prison. They are believed to be at risk of torture while in custody. They were severely tortured when they were previously in police custody in September 2006.

Amnesty International considers these men to be prisoners of conscience as they have been detained solely for exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly.

Amnesty International’s Trade Union Manager, Shane Enright, said

“These arrests are yet another example of the flagrant persecution of rights activists and trade unionists across Zimbabwe at the moment.”

The arrests of Lovemore Matombo and Wellington Chibebe are part of a wider crackdown on human rights defenders, trade unionists, lawyers, journalists, election observers and opposition activists in the wake of the parliamentary and presidential elections of 29 March.

Shane Enright continued:

“These two men have been arrested for exercising their basic human rights. This is absolutely unacceptable and they should be released immediately. We will work tirelessly, alongside the global Trade Unionss to achieve this end.”

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