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Youth rights activist brutally assaulted and lawyer harassed
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR)
April 23, 2004

Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) notes with grave concern the assaulting of Tinashe Chimedza; a well-known student youth rights activists by members of the Zimbabwe Republic Police. Further, ZLHR condemns the harassment of Advocate Tonderai Bhatasara by police officers manning Marlborough Police Station where Tinashe Chimedza was being held.

The Events
On 22 April 2004, youths and students were attending a peaceful meeting at Mount Pleasant Hall as part of the enjoyment of their right to freedom of association and assembly. The police were deployed to break the peaceful meeting using force.

Tinashe Chimedza was taken into a small room behind the hall where the police subjected him to torture. Otto Saki, Tinashe’s lawyer, attended the scene but was denied access to his client. He however witnessed the torture before Tinashe was taken to Marlborough Police Station. The assault included handcuffing his hands behind his back and assaulting him using booted feet, open hands, baton sticks and a broken broom handle. Tinashe Chimedza was later rushed to the Avenues Clinic, were he was admitted overnight for treatment.

Human rights lawyers Advocate Bhatasara and Jacob Mafume who had attended the scene were subjected to abuse with one officer shouting, "Ndakuona uri ku Mount Pleasant hall,uinozviita ani ko iwe? Ndinoremekedza flag ye Zimbabwe kudarika iwe, nhasi pano panofa munhu nezvamurikuita izvi, pfuti dzinorira panoapa". Literary translated, "I saw you at Mount Pleasant Hall, whom do you think you are? I respect the national flag more than anything and anyone, today someone is going to die, shots will be fired today". These remarks were directed at Advocate Bhatasara, who was thereafter ordered by the police to remove his watch, shoes, and other belongings, as he was now under arrest for refusing to remove his cap. The police released him after a while.

The Concerns
ZLHR is concerned at the heavy handedness of the police in dealing with peaceful assembly and association. The use of torture, which is on the increase in Zimbabwe, is also an issue of grave concern to ZLHR. Torture is an international crime and ultimately torturers run a risk of being prosecuted anytime and anywhere. We therefore urge the police to desist from such an unworthy practice and the relevant ministries to investigate the cases of torture and introduce professionalism in our police force. The continued harassment of lawyers and members of the judiciary is unacceptable, undermines the rule of law, and interferes with the independence of the judiciary and the due administration of justice.

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