FIDH and Zimrights condemn serious human rights violations against leaders of opposition parties and civil society representatives

Press release

FIDH and its member organisation ZimRights are gravely concerned by the flagrant disregard of fundamental rights and police brutality against detainees in Zimbabwe, including numerous leaders of opposition parties and civil society activists, who were arrested on Sunday 11 March whilst attempting to attend a Save Zimbabwe Campaign prayer meeting, which was to be held in Highfield, Harare at Zimbabwe Grounds.

According to ZimRights and corroborated by Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, more than thirty people were arrested at around 1100hours on 11 March 2007 and taken to Harare Central police station. The detainees included Arthur Mutambara, St Mary’s MP Job Sikhala, Morgan Changamire, Frank Chamunorwa, Linos Mushonga, Godfrey Gumbo, and Clever Kafero (all office-bearers in the Mutambara-led Movement for Democratic Change), together with Mike Davies (Chairperson of the Combined Harare Residents Association), Madock Chivasa (Spokesperson for the National Constitutional Assembly), and Gladys Hlatswayo (Information Officer for the Crisis Coalition). Morgan Tsvangirai was also arrested together with other members of the Tsvangirai-led Movement for Democratic Change, including MP Tendai Biti, MP Nelson Chamisa, Sekai Holland, and Grace Kwinjeh.

FIDH and ZimRights are particularly concerned at disturbing reports which indicate that:

1.The police in Zimbabwe used excessive force against unarmed civilians and shot dead an innocent Zimbabwean, Gift Tandare. The police have since taken responsibility for the summary execution.
2.In violation of High Court orders, lawyers, doctors and relatives were denied access to the detainees as required by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. FIDH and Zimrights express their profound concern that one lawyer, Harrison Nkomo, was assaulted as he attempted to gain access to his client, Morgan Tsvangirai. In order to frustrate access to lawyers and doctors and the families of detainees, the police continuously shuttled them between police stations.
3.Torture by police was used extensively over the majority of the detainees, including Morgan Tsvangirai. FIDH and ZIMRIGHTS remind the authorities in Zimbabwe, and the section of the police force concerned, that torture is absolutely prohibited under international law.

Consequently FIDH and ZIMRIGHTS call upon the government of Zimbabwe to ensure that:

- The murder of Gift Tandare be investigated immediately and the perpetrators brought to justice.
- The rights of the people of Zimbabwe to freedom of expression and association are respected, in conformity with international law. The people of Zimbabwe must be able to express themselves peacefully, including through peaceful demonstrations without risking arbitrary arrests, detention, harassment and torture.
- All those detained are guaranteed unimpeded access to lawyers. Full compliance with court orders must be ensured, even when seen to unfavorable to the state.
- Allegations of torture must be fully and expeditiously investigated and the perpetrators brought to justice.
FIDH and Zimrights urge the member states of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to break the culture of silence over serious human rights violations in Zimbabwe, which has consistently been interpreted by the ruling elites in Zimbabwe to constitute active support in the systematic violation of human rights.

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