Zimbabwe: Arbitrary detention of Mr. Hopewell Chin’ono (alias Daddy Hope)

16/11/2020
Urgent Appeal

New information
ZWE 002 / 0720 / OBS 084.3
Arbitrary detention /
Judicial harassment
Zimbabwe
November 16, 2020

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

New information:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the arbitrary detention of Mr. Hopewell Chin’ono (alias Daddy Hope), a freelance investigative journalist and filmmaker, who is very active in defending democracy, exposing State corruption and demanding transparency and accountability in the administration of public funds. Recently, Mr. Chin’ono exposed alleged corruption in the procurement of COVID-19 medical supplies[1].

According to the information received, on November 3, 2020, the Harare Law and Order officers arrested Mr. Hopewell Chin’ono at his home in Harare for allegedly breaking bail conditions in relation with a tweet he published on October 28, 2020 about the intervention of Zimbabwean Chief Justice Luke Malaba to deny him bail in a previous judicial case against him (see background information). On November 4, 2020, Mr. Chin’ono has been charged with “defeating or obstructing the course of justice” (Section 184(1)(c) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act) in relation with another tweet he published on October 26, 2020 saying that, according to a source within the National Prosecution Authority (NPA), the state would not oppose bail in the gold smuggling case against Henrietta Rushwayo[2].

Mr. Hopewell Chin’ono was supposed to appear before the court on November 5, 2020 for his bail hearing, which was postponed to November 6, 2020 and then to November 9, 2020.

On November 12, 2020, Mr. Chin’ono was denied bail, on the ground that he has a propensity to commit offenses, by a magistrate in Harare and the date of his trial has been set for November 26, 2020. Mr Chin’ono’s lawyers disagree with the ground in view of the Presumption of innocence, a constitutional right, and have indicated that they will appeal this decision before the High Court. In the meantime, Mr. Chin’ono will remain detained in Chikurubi Maximum Prison, in Harare.

The Observatory recalls that Mr. Hopewell Chin’ono was released on bail on September 2, 2020 after spending 44 days in pre-trial detention for “incitement to commit public violence” (see background information).

The Observatory condemns the new arbitrary detention of Mr. Hopewell Chin’ono which seems once again to be only aimed at punishing him for his legitimate human rights activities. The Observatory calls upon the authorities of Zimbabwe to immediately and unconditionally release him and to put an end to any kind of harassment, including at the judicial level, against himas well as all human rights defenders in the country.

Background information:

On July 20, 2020, eight-armed State security agents broke the glass front door of Mr. Hopewell Chin’ono’s house in Chisipite, Harare, and took him to the Law and Order section of Harare Central Police Station. At the time of the arrest, the State agents did not produce any arrest warrant and refused to produce identification documents to Mr. Chin’ono.

On the same day, police officers arrested Mr. Jacob Ngarivhume, the President of Transform Zimbabwe, an opposition political party, at his house in Harare before conducting him to Harare Central Police Station. Mr. Ngarivhume is the alleged organiser of the civil society’s demonstration against corruption and for the President Emmerson Mnangagwa to step down which was scheduled for July 31, 2020.

Both men were denied access to their lawyer and were not informed promptly of the charges they were facing, in violation of their right to due process. The Minister of Information and Publicity of Zimbabwe confirmed[3] later that the police arrested them in connection with allegations of contravening Section 187 (1)(a) as read with Section 36 (1)(a) and Section 37 (1)(a)(i) of the Criminal Law (Codification & Reform) Act, Chapter 9:23,and charged with “inciting the public to engage in a gathering with intent to commit public violence”, alternatively “incitement to commit public violence”.

On July 21, 2020, police officers searched the house of Mr. Hopewell Chin’ono, in his presence, in search for gadgets which they say he used to post three tweets “inciting public violence”. Ms. Beatrice Mtetwa, Mr. Hopewell Chin’ono’s lawyer, had to request for the search warrant various times before the police officer showed it to her. She also stopped the police officers from taking cameras, not covered by the warrant. However, in the evening of the same day, a group armed riot police unlawfully raided Mr. Hopewell’s home and eventually managed to seize his camera.

On July 22, 2020, Messrs. Chin’ono and Ngarivhume appeared respectively before Court 14 and Court 11 of the Rottenrow Magistrates Court, which postponed their bail hearings to July 23. The hearings then continued on July 24, 2020, when Magistrate Ngoni Nduna refused to grant them bail. Although Messrs. Chin’ono’s and Ngarivhume’s lawyers appealed the decision before the High Court, Justice Tawanda Chitapi dismissed their appeal on August 6, 2020.

Another appeal was subsequently filed by their lawyers based on "changed circumstances", after both human rights defenders were transferred from Harare Remand Prison to Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison on August 7, 2020, where their rights to receive food parcels and to communicate with their lawyers had been severely restricted. A hearing within the framework of Mr. Chin’ono’s second appeal took place on August 18, 2020 but the court did not finalise the bail hearing due to questions raised by prosecutor Whisper Mabhaudhi regarding Ms. Mtetwa’s eligibility to continue as the lead defence counsel for Mr. Hopewell Chin’ono. The court advised Mr. Hopewell Chin’ono to find another lawyer to allow the bail proceedings to continue as Ms. Mtetwa has been ordered to stand down from representing him[4].

On September 2, 2020, Messrs. Hopewell Chin’ono and Jacob Ngarivhume were granted bail by the High Court. They were ordered to pay respectively a 10,000 Zimbabwean dollar bail (approximately 100 Euros) and a 50,000 Zimbabwean dollar bail (approximately 503 Euros). They were also requested to surrender their passports, to report to police three times a week and to refrain from posting on social media. In addition, M. Hopewell Chin’ono was reportedly asked to hand over title deeds. The trial of Mr. Chin’ono is set for December 7 to 9, 2020.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of Zimbabwe asking them to:

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical integrity and psychological well-being of Mr. Hopewell Chin’ono, as well as all human rights defenders in Zimbabwe;

ii. Immediately and unconditionally release Mr. Hopewell Chin’ono as his detention is arbitrary and only aimed at sanctioning his legitimate human rights activities;

iii. Put an end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Mr. Hopewell Chin’ono, as well as all human rights defenders in Zimbabwe, and ensure that they are able to carry out their activities without hindrance;

iv. Conform to the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1998, especially Articles 1 and 12; and

v. Ensure in all circumstances the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the international human rights instruments ratified by Zimbabwe.

Addresses:

· President of Zimbabwe, Emmerson Mnangagwa; Fax: +263 4 708 211 / + 263.4.70.38.58 @edmnangagwa
· Mr. Kazembe Kazembe, Minister of Home Affairs, thesecretary@moha.gov.zw,
· Mr. Sibusiso Moyo, Minister of Foreign Affairs, mfa@zimfa.gov.zw
· Mr. Ziyambi Ziyambi, Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Fax: +263 2 42 77 29 99
· Mr. Prince Machaya, Attorney-General, Office of the Attorney; Fax: + 263 4 77 32 47;
· Ambassador Mr. Taonga Mushayavanhu, Permanent Mission of Zimbabwe to the United Nations in Geneva; Email: mission.zimbabwe@ties.itu.int
· Embassy of Zimbabwe in Brussels; Email: zimbrussels@skynet.be

Please also write to the diplomatic missions or embassies of Zimbabwe in your respective country.

***
Paris-Geneva, November 16, 2020

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 the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of this programme is to intervene 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@fidh-omct.org
· Tel FIDH: +33 1 43 55 25 18
· Tel OMCT: +41 22 809 49 39


[1] The journalist was detained after reporting allegations involving US$60 million worth of contracts awarded to companies at inflated prices for COVID-19 supplies, including Personal Protective Equipment, by the Ministry of Health.
[2] Henrietta Rushwayo, the president of the Zimbabwe Miners Federation, was arrested on October 26, 2020 at the Robert Mugabe International Airport as she tried to go to Dubai with 6 kgs of gold. She was subsequently charged with smuggling under the Customs and Excise Act.
[3] See: https://twitter.com/MinOfInfoZW/status/1285220113533276162
[4] For more information, see the Observatory urgent appeal ZWE 002 / 0720 / OBS 084.1 from August 20, 2020.

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