Re: WOZA activists
To: Office of the Ombudsman, and Office of the Attorney
From: Charles B. Davidson
I am writing concerning the cases and situations of a large number of persons who have recently been arrested as they marched peacefully through central Bulawayo in order to commemorate the launch of the People’s Charter. They also apparently sought to commence “16 days of Activism against Gender Violence” and to protest against the Public Order Security Act. Although they were behaving peacefully, I understand that more than sixty members of Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) and four members of Men of Zimbabwe Arise (MOZA) were arrested on November 29, 2006. Although some of those arrested were released within a few days (mainly, mothers with very young children) more than 34 persons are still detained. A lawyer for WOZA was threatened with arrest when she attempted to meet with her clients after they had been arrested.
I am writing as a member and on behalf of Lawyers Rights Watch Canada. We are an organization concerned with the violation and infringement of the rights of all human rights defenders around the world. We are extremely disturbed by the harassment of and threats against individuals who seek to exercise their rights as recognized under international law, to peacefully criticize and oppose the policies and decisions of their governments and political parties.
We call upon you to immediately and unconditionally release all those who were arrested on November 29 and to ensure their physical and sychological integrity and safety whether they are in or out of government custody. We also call upon you to end all acts of harassment and intimidation against defenders of human rights in Zimbabwe, including members of WOZA and MOZA. Finally, we urge you to immediately take such steps as are necessary to ensure that the rights of all persons in your country are respected and protected in accordance with international law, including the provisions of the Declaration of Human Rights Defenders and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.