Zimbabwe: Arbitrary arrest and subsequentrelease on bail of eight members of WOZA and two lawyers of ZLHR - ZWE 001 / 0209 / OBS 024

13/02/2009
Urgent Appeal

Description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the arbitrary arrest and subsequent release on bail of eight members of Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA), as well as of two lawyers and members of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR).

According to the information received, on February 10, 2009, approximately 600 members of WOZA and Men of Zimbabwe Arise (MOZA) took part in a peaceful demonstration organised by WOZA outside the Parliament building in Harare in order to call upon Zimbabweans to keep demanding social justice. Following the peaceful demonstration, Ms. Nelia Hambarume, Ms. Clara Bongwe, Ms. Auxilia Tarumbwa, Ms. Gracy Mutambachirimo, Ms. Linda Moyo, Ms. Keure Chikomo, Ms. Edina Saidi and Ms. Kundai Mupfukudzwa, all of them WOZA members, as well as of Ms. Roselyn Hanzi and Mr. Tawanda Zhuwarara, two lawyers and ZLHR members, were arrested by unidentified members of the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP). They were reportedly detained in the Parliament Guard Room before being moved to Harare Central police station.

Lawyers were not allowed access to them and were ordered out of the premises of the police station by Superintendent Chinhengo. The group remained in custody over night without being told what the reason of their arrest was.

The Observatory was further informed that three of the women were beaten in police custody and all have had to seek medical attention. Ms. Auxilia Tarumbwa, 35 years old and two month pregnant, was reportedly blocked by a plain-clothed policeman after she had dispersed from the demonstration and told to get into a police vehicle. She refused to get into the vehicle because she was not sure if they were police or not. When she refused, the policeman slapped her and when she got to Harare Central Police Station, the same plain-clothed officer beat her again, this time with a baton stick. She was taken to a clinic upon release and has received pain treatment for extensive deep tissue bruising. Two other women, Ms. Linda Moyo, 29 years old, and Ms. Gracy Mutambachirimo, aged 22, were beaten on the soles of their feet with a baton stick by the same officer, also for refusing to get into the vehicle.

On February 11, 2009, all detained members of WOZA and both lawyers were subjected to interviews about their life history, political affiliation, arrest record and other personal information. Afterwards they were finally allowed access to ZLHR lawyers. Moreover, the group was only able to have access to food brought in by the WOZA support team on the first day of their arrest.

On February 12, 2009, in the afternoon, above-mentioned human rights defenders were all released on free bail after they had been taken to the Harare Magistrate’s Court. The group, including the two lawyers, was charged for “participating in gathering with intent to promote public violence, breaches of the peace or bigotry” under Section 37 (1) (b) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act, which relates to “any person [who] […] in any place or at any meeting performs any action, utters any words or distributes or displays any writing, sign or other visible representation that is obscene, threatening, abusive or insulting, intending thereby to provoke a breach of the peace or realising that there is a risk or possibility that a breach of the peace may be provoked”. They will have to appear in court again on March 4, 2009.

The Observatory expresses its deep concern about the arbitrary arrest and judicial proceedings of the aforementioned WOZA and ZLHR members and believes that their arrest and detention is directly related to their human rights activities. The Observatory is concerned that this forms part of an ongoing trend of harassment by the ZRP against human rights defenders in Zimbabwe, especially against those wishing to exercise their right to demonstrate peacefully.

Actions required:

Please write to the authorities of Zimbabwe urging them to:

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of all human rights defenders in Zimbabwe;

ii. Put an end to all kinds of harassment, including at the judicial level, against above-mentioned human rights defenders as well as against all human rights defenders in Zimbabwe;

iii. Order a thorough and impartial investigation into the above-mentioned acts of torture and ill-treatment suffered by Ms. Auxilia Tarumbwa, Ms. Linda Moyo and Ms. Gracy Mutambachirimo in order to identify all those responsible, bring them before a civil competent and impartial tribunal and apply to them the penal sanctions provided by the law;

iv. Guarantee that adequate reparation is provided to Ms. Auxilia Tarumbwa, Ms. Linda Moyo and Ms. Gracy Mutambachirimo;

v. 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, especially its Article 1, which states that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realisation of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”, and Article 12.2, which provides that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the [...] Declaration”;

vi. 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, Office of the President, Private Bag 7700, Causeway, Harare, Zimbabwe, Fax : +263 4 708 211 / + 263.4.70.38.58

· Mr. Khembo Mohadi, Minister of Home Affairs, Ministry of Home Affairs, 11th Floor Mukwati Building, Private Bag 7703, Causeway, Harare, Zimbabwe, Fax : +263 4 726 716

· Mr. Patrick Chinamasa, Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Fax: + 263 4 77 29 99 / +263 4 252 155

· Mr. Augustine Chihuri, Commissioner General, Police Headquarters, P.O. Box 8807, Causeway, Harare, Zimbabwe, Fax : +263 4 253 212 / 728 768 / 726 084

· Mr. Justice Johannes Tomana, Attorney-General, Office of the Attorney, PO Box 7714, Causeway, Harare, Zimbabwe, Fax: + 263 4 77 32 47

· Mrs. Chanetsa, Office of the Ombudsman Fax: + 263 4 70 41 19

· Ambassador Mr. Boniface Chydiausiku, Permanent Mission of Zimbabwe to the United Nations in Geneva, Chemin William Barbey 27, 1292 Chambésy, Switzerland, Fax: + 41 22 758 30 44, Email: mission.zimbabwe@ties.itu.int

· Embassy of Zimbabwe in Brussels, 11 SQ Josephine Charlotte, 1200 Woluwe-Saint-Lambert, Belgium, Fax: + 32 2 762 96 05 / + 32 2 775 65 10, Email: zimbrussels@skynet.be.

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

***

Geneva - Paris, February 13, 2009

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

The Observatory, a FIDH and OMCT venture, is dedicated to the protection of Human Rights Defenders and aims to offer them concrete support in their time of need.

The Observatory was the winner of the 1998 Human Rights Prize of the French Republic.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:

Email : Appeals@fidh-omct.org

Tel et fax FIDH : + 33 1 43 55 55 05 / 33 1 43 55 18 80

Tel et fax OMCT : +41 22 809 49 39 / 41 22 809 49 29

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