Amnesty International has urged the Zimbabwe police to end their intimidation of activists and stop preventing them from exercising their right to peaceful assembly.
The call came as four female activists arrested and kept in custody without charge for five days following a peaceful demonstration were released after the Attorney General’s office refused to prosecute them.
Jenni Williams, Magodonga Mahlangu, Clara Manjengwa and Celina Madukani, members of Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA), were arrested on 15 April while attending a peaceful demonstration protesting rising electricity prices in the country’s capital Harare. They were arrested along with 61 others who were subsequently released.
“We welcome the release of the women activists, but are concerned about systematic abuse of the law by the police to frustrate human rights defenders engaging in peaceful protest,” said Simeon Mawanza Amnesty International’s Zimbabwe researcher.
“It is unacceptable that 30 years after independence, Zimbabwe’s activists still have to deal with ongoing harassment, fear and threats.”
Amnesty International calls on Zimbabwe’s Government of National Unity to halt on-going harassment of human rights defenders. Persecution of human rights defenders for their legitimate activities is a contravention of Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
Amnesty International has documented consistent politicised and partisan policing by members of the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP), in particular the Law and Order section, aimed at silencing the voices of human rights defenders.
In March police arrested Mr Okay Machisa, the director of the Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights) and Owen Maseko, an artist, in separate incidents.
Owen was arrested and charged under the Public Order and Security Act after holding an exhibition on the atrocities committed by state security agents in the 1980s in Matabeleland. He was detained and later granted bail. Okay Machisa was forced to temporarily leave the country as a result of his arrest.
“The Zimbabwe Republic Police need reforming to end the culture of impunity that thrives especially within the Law and Order section. These cases are testimony to the need for such reforms if the Global Political Agreement is to deliver on peace and stability.”