Zimbabwean human rights and political activists released

Fifteen of the eighteen Zimbabwean human rights and political activists who were re-detained yesterday have now been released on bail, though three remain in custody.

Jestina Mukoko, Director of the Zimbabwe Peace Project, a leading human rights organisation in Zimbabwe, and fourteen others were released this afternoon after spending one night in custody.

However, Kisimusi Chris Dhlamini, Shadreck Andrison Manyere and Gandhi Mudzingwa were not granted bail, apparently because their case was more complicated as they were allegedly found in possession of explosives.

Amnesty International repeated its call for the prompt and fair trial of those who remain in custody and for the state to drop the charges of all former prisoners of conscience, including Jestina Mukoko.

On 5 May, eighteen human rights and political activists were once again detained in Zimbabwe following their indictment to appear before the High Court on charges of terrorism and bombings, widely believed to be fabricated by the previous government. The Attorney General’s office had made submissions in court on 4 May to have the bail of the 18 accused people revoked.

In Zimbabwean law, when a person is indicted to appear before the High court, the accused has to re-apply for bail.

“These detainees were victims of enforced disappearance, torture and other ill-treatment. For months after their ‘discovery’ at police stations in Harare around 23 December 2008, some were repeatedly denied access to medical care,” said Veronique Aubert, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Africa programme.

Two of the detainees, Ghandi Mudzingwa and Kisimusi Chris Dhlamini, were not released on bail until April 2009. They were under police guard in hospital when bail was granted, and remained there after their release as they were being treated for injuries sustained as a result of torture. Three days after their release on bail prison officers, who were later replaced by officers from the Law and Order Section of the Zimbabwe Republic Police and the Central Intelligence Office, returned to the hospital and unlawfully detained them.

“The trial of these human rights and political activists has all the hallmarks of a political trial similar to the charges brought against 32 MDC activists arrested in March 2007 whose charges were acquitted by the courts or had the charges dropped.”

“The charges also appear to be malicious and similar to 2002 treason trial of Mr Morgan Tsvangirai, now Prime Minister, and Mr Welshman Ncube, who is Minister of Industry and Commerce in the inclusive government, who were also acquitted by the courts.”

 “The detention of these activists casts a dark shadow over the inclusive government and puts into question the government’s commitment to ending a culture of human rights violations used by the previous government against perceived opponents” said Veronique Aubert.