Zimbabwe: Ms. Jennifer Williams and Ms. Magadonga Mahlangu

Re: Ms. Jennifer Williams and Ms. Magadonga Mahlangu

To: Mr. Robert G. Mugabe, President of Zimbabwe, and others

From: Charles B. Davison, member of LRWC

Date: 2008-10-28

Lawyers Rights Watch Canada (LRWC) writes to you once again about the cases of Ms. Jennifer Williams and Ms. Magadonga Mahlangu. We understand that both of them have now been ordered detained, and have been denied release (“bail”) pending the conclusion of their trial proceedings.

LRWC understands that the basis for the ruling that Ms. Williams and Ms. Mahlangu would be denied release was that there are still cases pending against them. Furthermore, the magistrate who made this ruling seemed to interpret the legitimate legal arguments of the two accused as being an attempt to mislead the court. She also invoked against them a provision of law intended to apply only in cases of persons accused of violent crimes, when this type of offence has never been alleged against either of them.

Ms. Williams and Ms. Mahlangu are presently being held at Mlondolozi Female Prison, in conditions that fall below accepted international standards; cells are overcrowded, food is very limited, and lice and other forms of pestilence are common. Furthermore, Ms. Mahlangu continues to suffer from injuries inflicted in a beating by a high ranking police officer in Mhlalandlela.

LRWC is especially concerned that both Ms. Williams and Ms. Mahlangu are being held due to their involvement in a peaceful demonstration held on October 16, 2008 in Bulawayo. At that time demonstrators were encouraging movement towards formation of a new government in your country in order to ensure that the fundamental and basic needs of all Zimbabweans – including basic necessities such as food, water and electricity – might be met quickly. In response to the peaceful and lawful demonstration, riot police beat the demonstrators and Ms. Williams and Ms. Mahlangu were arrested.

LRWC calls on you and the Government of Zimbabwe to act immediately:

1. to protect and guarantee the physical safety and the professional independence of both Ms. Williams and Ms. Mahlangu along with that of all other human rights defenders in Zimbabwe; and,
2. to cause the immediate and unconditional release from jail of both Ms. Williams and Ms. Mahlangu; and,
3. a full and impartial investigation of all allegations of beatings and other ill treatment carried out by the police, military or any other government agency or force in Zimbabwe; and,
4. to ensure an immediate end of all forms of harassment, including at the judicial level, of all human rights defenders in Zimbabwe; and,
5. to enact policies and laws by which its international obligations to respect the human rights of all Zimbabweans will be honoured and obeyed.

LRWC looks forward to receiving a reply to this letter.