Zimbabwe: Release on bail of Pastor Evan Mawarire

Urgent Appeal

New information
ZIM 001 / 0119 / OBS 006.1
Release on bail /
Judicial harassment
February 1, 2019

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 release on bail 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 30, 2019, the High Court of Zimbabwe released Pastor Mawarire on bail, after two weeks spent in Chikurubi maximum security prison, located on the outskirts of the capital, Harare. Pastor Mawarire had to pay 2,000 USD for his release and will have to report three times a week to the police.

Pastor Mawarire was arrested over his call to support peaceful nationwide protests over fuel prices and charged with “subverting a constitutional government” (section 22 of the Criminal Law Act) on January 17, 2019 (see background information). The charges are still pending against him. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in jail. The date of the trial has not been set yet.

The Observatory recalls that the anti-government protests over the fuel prices were severely repressed by security forces: at least 12 persons were shot dead and at least 300 wounded during the crackdown on protesters; around 600 people were also arbitrarily arrested [2]. Furthermore, the Government blocked temporarily access to Internet and social media, thus hindering the work of human rights defenders and the media who monitored the crisis.

The Observatory recalls that this is not the first time that Pastor Mawarire faces arbitrary detention and judicial harassment, as he was already arrested and then released in July 2016, and then September 2016, and February, June and September 2017. On November 29, 2017, the 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 demanding an end to corruption and the economic crisis. [3]

The Observatory welcomes the release on bail of Pastor Mawarire but recalls that he should never have been arrested in the first place. The Observatory calls the Zimbabwean authorities to put an end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Pastor Mawarire and all human rights defenders in the country.

Background information:

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

Pastor 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.

On January 17, 2019, Pastor 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. Pastor 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).

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

ii. Put an end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Pastor Mawarire and all human rights defenders in Zimbabwe, and ensure that they are able to carry out their activities without hindrance;

iii. 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
iv. 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
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; 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, February 1, 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] Source: Zimbabwean Human Rights Association (ZimRights).
[3] See Observatory Urgent Appeal ZIM 001 / 0217 / OBS 016.2, published on December 5, 2017.

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