Zimbabwe: Arbitrary arrest, subsequent release and ongoing judicial harassment against Pastor Evan Mawarire

27/09/2017
Urgent Appeal

New information
ZIM 001 / 0217 / OBS 016.1

Arbitrary arrest /
Release /
Judicial harassment
Zimbabwe
September 27, 2017

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Zimbabwe.

New information:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the arbitrary arrest, subsequent release and ongoing judicial harassment against Pastor Evan Mawarire, prominent anti-corruption activist who led last year’s #ThisFlag [1] protests which encouraged Zimbabweans via social media to hold protests against President Robert Mugabe, accusing him of corruption and causing the economic crisis.

According to the information received, on September 24, 2017, Pastor Mawarire was arbitrarily arrested during a church service in Milton Park and subsequently detained at Harare central police station. Pastor Mawarire had initially been charged with “subverting a constitutional government” under Section 22 (2) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act, Chapter 9:23.

These charges stem from a video circulated on social media on September 23, 2017, in which Pastor Mawarire criticised Zimbabwe’s economic policies and urged Zimbabweans to revolt against them [2].

Pastor Mawarire was taken to the Prosecutor General’s office on September 26, 2017. On the same day Harare Magistrates Court, ordered his release on the ground that under the Constitution of Zimbabwe, no one can be detained more than 48 hours without appearing before a court of law. Charges related to his arrest were consequently dropped.

However, Pastor Mawarire is still facing trial as similar charges were levelled against him in February 2017, for leading demonstrations and demanding an end to corruption and the economic crisis (see background information). Pastor Mawarire appeared in court on September 25, 2017 and pleaded not guilty. The next hearing is scheduled on September 28, 2017.

The Observatory condemns the ongoing harassment, including at the judicial level, against Pastor Mawarire, which seems only to be aimed at sanctioning his legitimate human rights activities and urges authorities to immediately and unconditionally release him.

Background information:

In July 2016, Pastor Mawarire was arrested and charged with “inciting public violence”. The public prosecutor then altered the charges to “attempting to overthrow a constitutional government”. However, the Harare Magistrate Vakai Chikwekwe ruled that Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) officers had violated his constitutional rights in arresting and detaining him and that the prosecutor acted in violation of the Constitution by bringing new charges against Pastor Mawarire while in court.

President Mugabe himself publicly attacked Pastor Mawarire accusing him of being a “great shame” and a “disgrace” for “allowing himself to demonstrate against the country”.

Fearing to be further harassed and arrested, Pastor Mawarire, left on a self-imposed exile to the United States for seven months.

Pastor Mawarire returned to Zimbabwe on February 1, 2017 and was immediately arrested at the airport and charged by the ZRP with “subverting a constitutional government” [3]. The ZRP claims that the cleric has been “inciting Zimbabweans from all walks of life either locally or internationally to revolt and overthrow a constitutionally elected government”. That includes allegations that Pastor Evan Mawarire has incited some Zimbabweans living in the US and “all over the world” through social media to converge in New York on September 22, 2016 to “confront” President Mugabe, who was attending the United Nations General Assembly and order him to “immediately” resign from his position under the accusation of destroying the country.

On February 8, 2017, the Harare High Court acceded to a bail request and granted a USD 300 (280 euros) bail to Pastor Mawarire, after finding the State’s case “weak”, with “no compelling reasons” to maintain him in pre-trial detention. The bail was accompanied by the obligation to report twice a week (on Mondays and Fridays) to the Arondale police station. In addition, Pastor Mawarire had to surrender his passport to the Clerk of the Harare Magistrates Court and was urged not to interfere with State witnesses.

Furthermore, the High Court found extensive periods of pre-trial detention to be in contradiction with provisions of the Zimbabwean Constitution, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as well as with opinions of the United Nations Human Rights Committee, and the European Court of Justice.

Actions requested:

Please write to the Zimbabwean authorities asking them to:

i. Put an end to any kind of harassment - including at the judicial level - against Pastor Evan Mawarire, as well as against all human rights defenders in Zimbabwe;

ii. Put an end to any kind of hindrance to Pastor Evan Mawarire’s freedom of movement by immediately returning him his passport;

iii. Conform with the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1998, in particular with its Articles 1, 6, 9, and 12.2;

iv. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Zimbabwe.

Addresses:

· President of Zimbabwe, Mr. Robert G. Mugabe; Fax: +263 4 708 211 / + 263.4.70.38.58 @RGMugabe
· Mr. Ignatius Chombo, Minister of Home Affairs, Ministry of Home Affairs; Fax: +263 4 726 716
· Ms. Obendingwa Mguni, Deputy Minister of Home Affairs, Ministry of Home Affairs; o.hmguni@ymail.com ; Fax: +263 4 726 716
· Mr. E. D. Mnangagwa, Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs; justice@justice.gov.zw; Fax: + 263 4 77 29 99 / +263 4 252 155
· Dr. Augustine Chihuri, Commissioner General, Police Headquarters; Fax: +263 4 253 212 / 728 768 / 726 084
· Mr. Prince Machaya, Attorney-General, Office of the Attorney; ;Fax: + 263 4 77 32 47;
· Ms. Chanetsa, Office of the Public Protector; Fax: + 263 4 70 41 19
· Ambassador Mr. Taonga Mushayavanhu, Permanent Mission of Zimbabwe to the United Nations in Geneva; Fax: + 41 22 758 30 44; Email: mission.zimbabwe@ties.itu.int
· Embassy of Zimbabwe in Brussels; Fax: + 32 2 762 96 05 / + 32 2 775 65 10, Email: zimbrussels@skynet.be

Please also write to the diplomatic mission or embassy of Zimbabwe in your respective country

***
Paris-Geneva, September 27, 2017

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by FIDH and OMCT. The objective of this programme is to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu , the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
· E-mail: Appeals[at]fidh-omct.org
· Tel and fax FIDH + 33 1 43 55 25 18 / +33 1 43 55 18 80
· Tel and fax OMCT + 41 22 809 49 39 / + 41 22 809 49 29

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