Re: WOZA and MOZA arrests
To: Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, and others
From: Charles B. Davidson, member of LRWC
We write at this time to express our concerns about the arrests of a number of persons on February 10, 2009, following peaceful demonstrations outside the Parliament building in Harare. The demonstrations were arranged by Women of Zimbabwe Arise and Men of Zimbabwe Arise and were apparently aimed at encouraging all Zimbabweans to continue to seek social justice in your country.
We understand that since their arrest the prisoners have not been permitted to consult with legal counsel and were held overnight without even being informed of the reasons for their arrests. Three of the women arrested were apparently beaten while in custody, including one who is two months pregnant. All had to seek medical attention later for their injuries. On February 11, the authorities interviewed the prisoners. On February 12 they were released by court order, although all of the detainees as well as their lawyers were then charged with “participating in gathering with intent to promote public violence, breaches of the peace, or bigotry…”. They are required to attend in court again on March 4, 2009.
This situation continues to cause us grave concern as we have reason to believe that the arrests and detentions of these persons are directly related to their exercise of rights and freedoms they are guaranteed under international law and conventions, including the right to hold and peacefully express political opinions and views even where those are not the policies or views of their government. Lawyers Rights Watch Canada is particularly concerned by what seems to be a concerted effort by your government and its supporters to harass and persecute human rights defenders in Zimbabwe. We again remind you of your government’s obligations under Article 12.2 of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, which guarantees to all persons involved in the defence of human rights the State’s protection from all forms of persecution, abuse, harassment and threats.
We therefore call upon you to guarantee and ensure the personal and psychological integrity of all human rights defenders in your country, and an end to all forms of harassment of human rights defenders in any and all situations and circumstances. We also call for an independent and impartial investigation into the events of February 10 to 12, which are summarized above, and in particular, into the abuse suffered, by any of the prisoners while they were in police or government custody. Where offences have taken place at the hands of police or other authorities, we call for those persons to be prosecuted according to law, and for appropriate reparations to be paid to the victims of such abuse.
We will continue to monitor this situation and case, and will look forward to the proper resolution of this matter.