© Private

Zimbabwe: Arrest of members of opposition shows an escalating crackdown against freedom of association and assembly

Responding to the news that Zimbabwean police on 14 January arrested 25 members of political opposition party Citizen’s Coalition for Change (CCC) and allegedly physically assaulted the lawyer who was representing them, Flavia Mwangovya, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for East and Sothern Africa, said:

The arrest of members of a political opposition is a shameless assault right to freedom of expression.

Flavia Mwangovya, Deputy Director for East and Southern Africa, Amnesty International

“The arrest of members of a political opposition party simply for holding a meeting at a private residence is a shameless assault by Zimbabwean authorities against the rights to privacy, to liberty and security of persons and to freedom of expression. Their chilling message is unmistakeable. It is clear that Zimbabwe authorities will go after anyone who dares oppose them in the upcoming elections.

These 25 individuals must be released immediately and all charges against them must be dropped.

Flavia Mwangovya

“These 25 individuals must be released immediately and all charges against them must be dropped. Zimbabwe authorities must respect the right to freedom of assembly in the run-up to the election.

It is also disgraceful that the police tried to deny these 25 individuals their human right to have access to counsel by physically assaulting their lawyer.

Flavia Mwangovya

“It is also disgraceful that the police tried to deny these 25 individuals their human right to have access to counsel by physically assaulting their lawyer as he tried to confer with his clients. 

“The lawyer should not have been attacked simply for discharging his function of defending his clients. Lawyers should not be identified with their clients or their clients’ causes as a result of discharging their functions.”

Background

On 14 January, Zimbabwean police allegedly physically assaulted members of CCC and ultimately arrested 25 individuals while they were attending a private meeting in Budiriro, Harare.

Hon. Amos Chibaya and Hon. Costa Machingauta, members of parliament for Mkoba and Budiriro respectively, were among those arrested. The 25 individuals were charged under Section 37 of the Criminal Code with participating in a gathering with intent to promote public violence, breaches of the peace or bigotry, and appeared in court on 16 January. Kudzayi Kadzere, a human rights lawyer representing the 25 individuals, was allegedly assaulted by riot police.

Zimbabwean law requires political parties to notify authorities two weeks before holding a political meeting. According to the CCC, however, their gathering was a private meeting held at the residence of one of its members. Notification requirements should thus not apply in this instance.