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ZLHR concerned at continuing indiscriminate arrests of MDC members
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR)
February 22, 2007

The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) remains concerned about the indiscriminate spate of arrests of Tsvangirai-led Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) officials and members over the past two days.

MDC legislator, Willias Madzimure, MDC treasurer, Elton Mangoma and MDC member, Grace Kwinje, were detained on Thursday 22 February and removed to Rhodesville Police Station after presenting themselves to the CID at the Law and Order section of Harare Central Police Station in the company of their lawyers, Alec Muchadehama and Tafadzwa Mugabe of ZLHR.

ZLHR notes that the police acted in bad faith when they moved to detain the trio overnight, reneging on an earlier undertaking to release the MDC members after questioning. The trio, who had presented themselves to assist police with investigations pertaining to alleged public violence of 16 February 2007, were jointly charged with the nine other members of MDC released on $50 000 bail each on Tuesday 20 February 2007. The nine, who included MDC Secretary General and MP for Harare East, Tendai Biti, MDC National Executive Committee member, Last Maengahama, and Deputy Secretary for Local Government, Paul Madzore were charged under Section 36(1)(a) of the Criminal Law (Codification) Act and remanded to 7 March 2007.

In a related incident three other MDC activists were arrested on Thursday 22 February 2007 in Gweru under unclear circumstances. The three, Stephanos Njanji, Lovemore Howahowa and Cletus Ndonga, who had been initially denied access to their lawyer, ZLHR member Reginald Chidawanyika, were part of the 46 MDC members who were arrested on Sunday 18 February 2007 in a Gweru-bound bus as they sought a separate venue for the foiled Highfield rally. The trio were picked up at 11 am and released at 5 pm on Thursday 22 February and told to report to the Gweru Central Police Station on Friday 23 February 2007.  Police wanted to know who had invited them to Harare and who was the head of their delegation. The three have since been cleared of any wrong doing. Another MDC member, Cornelius Salitiwe was also picked up by police at 9 am at his place of employment, the City of Gweru. He is still to be charged. His lawyer was told he would only be able to see and talk to him once the police had questioned him. ZLHR has been advised that more arrests are expected in Gweru as police fear that MDC is planning a demonstration for Saturday 24 February 2007. The development demonstrates an increasing sense of paranoia in the ruling party in the wake of civil unrest that has led to an increasing number of strikes by civil servants and demonstrations by civil society.

Two other MDC youths, Cleto Piki and Taurai Nyamanhindi, were arrested at 9 pm on Wednesday 21 February 2007 on suspicion of being responsible for the destruction of property in St Mary’s two weeks ago. Also arrested was a Glen Norah MDC member, Nobert Mudadi, who faces charges for allegedly assaulting ZANU-PF youths while mobilising other youths from the opposition party for the foiled rally. Mudadi however alleges that he had been brutally assaulted by the ruling party youths who were not happy about his move to mobilise opposition party members for the rally. This incident confirms the partisan nature of the law enforcement agents who have a constitutional duty to protect all members of the public, rather than certain sectors of society.

ZLHR condemns the indiscriminate spate of arrests and see them as a move to intimidate forces opposed to the state especially coming in the wake of the three-month ban on political demonstrations and rallies in Mbare and Harare South districts, and the further ban on such legitimate and constitutionally protected activities in Harare Suburban area which is reminiscent of the laws enforced during the colonial era.

ZLHR is concerned about the violation of the MDC members’ right to freedom of peaceful assembly and expression as provided for in the Constitution of Zimbabwe and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as a range of other international treaties to which Zimbabwe is a State Party, including the 1998 UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights also condemns arbitrary arrest, detention and exile which assert that “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile” and “Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.”

ZLHR urges the police and government to observe these basic human rights in the interest of upholding the rule of law. Members of society need to be treated equally and ZLHR maintains that acting otherwise encourages and promotes impunity and leads to a further deterioration and undermining of the rule of law and good governance. ZLHR believes that people should be allowed to enjoy their rights and be free to exercise their rights in their country of origin for social, political and economic growth to be achieved.

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