Amnesty International said today it considers three Zimbabwean human rights activists arrested this week to be “prisoners of conscience” and called for their immediate and unconditional release.
The three, from the Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe, which promotes freedom of expression and responsible journalism, were arrested on Monday in Gwanda, Matabeleland South Province and were awaiting a judgement on their bail application, which is due on Friday. They are being held at Gwanda Remand Prison.
“The detained activists were arrested solely for their legitimate work advocating for media reforms and freedom of expression in Zimbabwe,” said Erwin van der Borght, Amnesty International’s Africa Programme Director. “We consider them to be prisoners of conscience and are calling for their immediate and unconditional release.”
Fadzai December and Molly Chimhanda, employees of the Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe (MMPZ), and a member of the organization, Gilbert Mabusa, were arrested at Gwanda police station following a request by police that they report at the station to answer questions in relation to a meeting convened by the organization in November.
The three reported at the police station in the company of their lawyer and were charged with contravening the Public Order and Security Act (POSA), for allegedly ‘participating in a gathering without seeking authority from the regulating authority’ and also for allegedly contravening the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act, by ‘distributing material that is likely to provoke a breach of peace’.
In Harare on Tuesday 6 December, the MMPZ Coordinator Andrew Moyse was picked up from the organization’s offices by four officers from the Law and Order Section of the Zimbabwe Republic Police for allegedly possessing material on Gukuruhundi – a 1980s government security operation in parts of Matabeleland and Midlands provinces which resulted in the killing and maiming of thousands of civilians by the security forces. Police, who had a search warrant, also confiscated DVDs from the organization’s premises. Andrew Moyse was subject to several hours of interrogation before being released without charge.
’The arrests and detention of Fadzai December, Molly Chimhanda and Gilbert Mabusa and questioning of Andrew Moyse are symptomatic of systematic harassment and intimidation of human rights defenders by the police and other state security organizations which has continued under Zimbabwe’s Government of National Unity’ said Erwin van der Borght.
‘The authorities must immediately call a halt to such harassment and respect the rights of human rights defenders facilitating dialogue on key national issues including media, security sector and legal reforms.’ said van der Borght.