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Strikes and Protests 2007- Save Zimbabwe Campaign
of activists continues in Zimbabwe
March 26, 2007
About 50 activists were arrested at
meeting in Zimbabwe on 11 March 2007, in defiance of a three-month
ban imposed by the authorities. The activists, including leaders
of the main opposition party in Zimbabwe -- the Movement for Democratic
Change (MDC) -- were severely beaten during arrest and some were
reported to have been tortured while in police custody.
Police shot dead one of the activists,
Gift Tandare, the youth chairperson of the National
Constitutional Assembly (NCA) local structure in a Harare suburb.
Those tortured include MDC President Morgan Tsvangirai and NCA Chairperson
Dr Lovemore Madhuku.
Amnesty International (AI) has received
numerous reports of continuing police harassment of the political
opposition and lawyers. In addition, civil society groups, including
Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), the NCA and the women's organisation
of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA), continue to be harassed by state agents
as they attempt to carry out their work.
AI has written to Zimbabwe's President,
Robert Mugabe, and the Minister of Home Affairs, Kembo Mohadi, calling
on the government to take effective measures to bring to an end
the ongoing and grave human rights violations.
Harassment of members of the political
Grace Kwinjeh and Sekai Holland,
both members of the MDC who were reported to have been tortured
by police following the events of 11 March, were prevented from
seeking further medical care in South Africa on Saturday 17 March.
They were prevented from boarding an air ambulance and forcibly
taken from Harare International Airport to Harare Central Police
Their travel documents were reported
to have been confiscated and an ambulance was instructed to take
Kwinje and Holland back to hospital where they were placed under
armed police guard. Kwinjeh and Holland were only allowed to leave
the country on 22 March after being granted an order by the High
Court prohibiting the authorities from interfering with their evacuation.
The next day, Sunday, Nelson Chamisa,
national spokesperson for the MDC, who was also beaten by police
on 11 March, was attacked, by unidentified persons at Harare International
Airport sustaining a fractured skull as well as multiple lacerations
to the face.
On Monday, one of the MDC faction leaders
Arthur Mutambara was released from police custody following his
arrest and detention on 17 March. He was arrested at Harare International
Airport on his way to South Africa to visit his family. Reports
indicate that he was taken to court on Monday, but the magistrate
refused to place him on remand, and that his passport has been confiscated
Harassment of lawyers
AI has also received extremely worrying reports concerning harassment
of the lawyers representing the political opposition since 11 March
2007. Andrew Makoni, a lawyer from Zimbabwe
Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), was forced to undergo an extensive
body search by police when he attempted to serve police a court
order prohibiting further interference with the body of Gift Tandare.
Andrew Makoni was reported to have
been accused of carrying "arms of war" by the police. Police tore
up the court order and an order was given to arrest Makoni if he
was again seen on the premises. Police are also reported to have
accused lawyers of facilitating what police alleged to be violence
perpetrated by the opposition.
Harassment of human rights defenders
On Tuesday 13 March, seven
police officers arrived at the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions
(ZCTU) offices with a search warrant allowing them to search for
and seize all "subversive materials" found on the premises. Two
ZCTU officers, Gilbert Marembo and Michael Kadukuti, were reported
to have been assaulted by police officers with open palms across
Police searched the ZCTU offices having
detained ZCTU staff and visitors in the offices. The ZCTU staff
was also threatened with "home visits" in the presence of their
lawyers who had enquired about the alleged assaults. Police also
seized four boxes containing ZCTU fliers.
The following Monday (19 March), two
members of the women's organisation Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA)
were reported to have been taken from their homes in Harare at gunpoint
by police and blindfolded. They were questioned about WOZA and assaulted
before being left in the bush.
WOZA members had previously been reported
to have been arrested, detained and beaten by police in Masvingo
on 6 March 2007 following a peaceful demonstration against poor
delivery of water services.
Since 2003, AI has documented over
ten incidents where WOZA members have been severely beaten while
in police custody after exercising their right to peaceful protest.
They have been repeatedly denied access to food, lawyers and medical
care. Often mothers are detained with babies for prolonged periods.
The continued harassment by the police
of the political opposition and lawyers following the events of
11 March 2007 reflects a pattern of harassment of political opposition,
lawyers and human rights defenders, documented by AI since 2000.
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