Zimbabwe: Pastor Evan Mawarire arrested over peaceful protest

Urgent Appeal

ZIM 001 / 0119 / OBS 006
Arbitrary detention /
Judicial harassment
January 18, 2019

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

Description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the arbitrary arrest and ongoing judicial harassment of Pastor Evan Mawarire, prominent anti-corruption activist who led 2016’s #ThisFlag [1] protests which encouraged Zimbabweans to denounce the corruption and economic crisis which prevailed under the regime of Robert Mugabe.

According to the information received, on January 17, 2019, Mr. Evan Mawarire appeared before the Harare Court and was charged with “subverting a constitutional government” (section 22 of the Criminal Law Act). If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in jail.

The charges are linked to the nationwide anti-government protests that were triggered by President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s announcement that the fuel price would more than double as the country’s economic crisis is deepening. Mr. Mawarire went public on Facebook and Twitter before and during the strikes, calling for Zimbabweans to support peacefully a stay-at-home strike called by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU).

On January 16, 2019, police officers surrounded Mr. Mawarire’s home in Harare and took him in a police truck two hours later. The Police initially arrested Mr. Mawarire over the crime of “inciting public violence”.

Mr. Mawarire’s first hearing was scheduled in the morning of January 17, 2019 but the decision to upgrade his charges delayed his appearance before the Court.

The Observatory recalls that the anti-government protests over the fuel price were severely repressed by security forces: several persons were shot dead (at least eight as of the publication of this appeal) or wounded during the crackdown on protesters; around 200 people were arbitrarily detained, and the Government also blocked the access to Internet and social media.

The Observatory also recalls that this is not the first time Mr. Mawarire faces arbitrary detention and judicial harassment. Mr. Mawarire was arrested and released in July 2016, arrested again in September 2016, February, June and September 2017. On November 29, 2017, Harare High Court dropped all pending charges of “subverting a constitutional government” against Pastor Mawarire. Those charges were levelled against him in February 2017, for leading demonstrations against President Mugabe and demanding an end to corruption and the economic crisis. [2]

The Observatory condemns the arbitrary detention and judicial harassment of Mr. Evan Mawarire as they seem only aimed at punishing him for his legitimate human rights activities and urges Zimbabwean authorities to immediately and unconditionally release him.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of Zimbabwe asking them to:
i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Evan Mawarire and all human rights defenders in Zimbabwe;

ii. Immediately and unconditionally release Mr. Evan Mawarire and all human rights defenders arbitrarily detained in the country;

iii. Put an end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Mr. Evan Mawarire and 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.

President of Zimbabwe, Emmerson Mnangagwa; Fax: +263 4 708 211 / + @edmnangagwa
Mr. Cain Mathema, Minister of Home Affairs, thesecretary@moha.gov.zw, Phone: +263 2 42 70 36 41/43, Fax: +263 2 42 70 72 31
Mr. Sibusiso Moyo, Minister of Foreign Affairs, mfa@zimfa.gov.zw, Phone: +263 47 94 68 16
Mr. Ziyambi Ziyambi, Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Phone: +263 2 42 77 46 20/7, 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; 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 missions or embassies of Zimbabwe in your respective country. 
Paris-Geneva, January 18, 2019
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 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

[1] The #ThisFlag movement started after Pastor Evan Mawarire posted a video on Facebook in which he appeared with the Zimbabwean flag around his neck and denounced the country’s worsening economic crisis.
[2] See Observatory Urgent Appeal ZIM 001 / 0217 / OBS 016.2, published on December 5, 2017.

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