Zimbabwe : Provisional release and prosecution of ten members of WOZA

16/02/2012
Urgent Appeal

The Observatory > Urgent appeal > ZWE 001 / 0212 / OBS 016.1

February 10, 2012

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

New information:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the provisional release and prosecution of ten members of Women and Men of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA), a civic movement that defends women’s rights and freedoms in Zimbabwe, including Ms. Jennifer Williams, National Coordinator.

According to the information received, on February 9, 2012, the ten WOZA members arrested on February 7, 2012 (See background information) [1] were presented to court and formally charged for “criminal nuisance” under Section 46 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act [chapter 9:23] [2]. They were initially detained for “failing to notify the police of a demonstration” under Section 25 of the Public Order Security Act (POSA).

All ten members were then released pending trial. The court set February 13, 2012 as provisional trial date. The four bystanders who had also been arrested on the same day were released at the court without charge.

Moreover, four WOZA members who were arrested complained of being beaten upon arrest and handcuffed and dragged to central police station. All complained of mistreatment in detention as they were being kept by night in the cold in a open fenced area of the police and in the sun by day for long hours. In addition, several of those who were not arrested were beaten and had to be treated for bruising in their homes, as they found the riot police were waiting for them at the private clinic where any injuries are normally catered for.

The Observatory condemns the continuing judicial harassment of WOZA members since it seems to merely aim at sanctioning their human rights activities and expresses its deep concern about the ongoing attempts to hinder the peaceful activities of human rights defenders.

Background information:

In the afternoon of February 7, 2012, ten members of WOZA were arrested by the police while they were participating in a peaceful procession in Bulawayo that converged in front of the Joint Operations, Monitoring and Implementation Committee (JOMIC) [3] offices in Bulawayo while commemorating the 10th anniversary of WOZA. WOZA had also arranged a meeting with JOMIC in order to request them to act urgently according to their mandate to ensure the implementation of the Global Political Agreement (GPA) and ensure that abuse of rights by the police stop.

As she was emerging from the meeting, Ms. Williams was arrested by riot police who were assaulting demonstrators as well as members of the public. All of this action took place in front of the members of the JOMIC delegation, who had asked during the meeting to be provided with concrete proof of the activities of the police. Nine other WOZA members and four bystanders were also arrested at different parts of the city.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of Zimbabwe asking them to:

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Ms. Jennifer Williams, of the nine other WOZA members currently prosecuted and all human rights defenders in the country;

ii. Put an end to any kinds of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Ms. Jennifer Williams and the nine other WOZA members as well as against all human rights defenders in Zimbabwe;

iv. 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 his or her rights”;

v. More generally, ensure in all circumstances the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and with international and regional human rights 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, co-Minister of Home Affairs, Ministry of Home Affairs, 11th Floor Mukwati Building, Private Bag 7703, Causeway, Harare, Zimbabwe, Fax : +263 4 726 716;

· Mr. Giles Mutsekwa, co-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;

· H.E. Mr. James Manzou, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of Zimbabwe to the United Nations in Geneva, Chemin William Barbey 27, 1292 Chambésy, Switzerland, Fax: + 41 22 758 30 44, Email: zimbabwemission@bluewin.ch;

· 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.

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