Zimbabwe: Human rights and political activists back in detention

Amnesty International called for the immediate and unconditional release or prompt and fair trial of 18 human rights and political activists detained today, just two months after they were released from prison after having been tortured.

The group of 18 detainees includes Jestina Mukoko, Director of the Zimbabwe Peace Project, a leading human rights organisation in Zimbabwe. All are accused of plotting to topple the previous government.

“Jestina Mukoko is being detained solely for her legitimate human rights work,” said Veronique Aubert, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Africa Programme.  

“She should be immediately and unconditionally released and the politically-motivated charges against her should be dropped.”

Amnesty International said that all detainees were victims of enforced disappearance, torture and other ill-treatment at the hands of state agents between October and December 2008.

“The trial of these human rights activists has all the hallmarks of a political trial,” said Veronique Aubert. “The charges appear to be similar to the charges used during the 2002 treason trial of Morgan Tsvangirai, now Prime Minister.”

The organization said that it considered all of those detained to be potential prisoners of conscience.   They were detained today following their indictment to appear before the High Court on charges of terrorism and bombings, widely believed to be fabricated by the state. On 4 May, the Attorney General’s office had made submissions in court to have the bail of the 18 detainees revoked. In Zimbabwean law, when a person is indicted to appear before the High Court, the accused has to re-apply for bail.

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