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Deportation and harassment of members of the Southern African Peoples' Solidarity Network
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR)
August 17, 2007

Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) wishes to express its concern and condemn the denial of entry into Zambia by Zambian immigration authorities to members of the Southern African Peoples' Solidarity Network (SAPSN) and the ensuing illegal detention of these people by the Zimbabwean police force, working in cahoots with agents of the Central Intelligence Organization (CIO) and military personnel.

On 15 August 2007 a 62-member delegation of SAPSN traveled to Lusaka, Zambia, for the SADC Peoples' Summit. They were turned back at the Zambian point of entry at the Chirundu border post before 40 individuals were detained by the Zimbabwean security authorities upon their return to Zimbabwean soil. The Zambian authorities provided no cogent reasons as to why the delegation was denied entry besides suggesting that it "was a directive from Lusaka".

Upon their arrival on the Zimbabwean side the group was subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment by large teams of security personnel which included the police, members of the CIO and military personnel, all of whom refused to identify themselves. The SAPSN delegation was held in detention at Chirundu police station for a period in excess of eight (8) hours. During that time they were denied access to their lawyer and were individually interrogated by intelligence agents, rather than the police, after which they had their property ransacked and unlawfully confiscated as the security authorities sought reasons to prefer fictitious charges against the group. At no time were they advised of the reasons for their arrest and detention, in contravention of the Constitution and other laws of Zimbabwe. Further, they were being intimidated into revealing personal information about themselves, their colleagues and other human rights defenders with whom they regularly interact. It was clear from the interrogation that the "authorities" had extensive information about their previous (lawful) activities, confirming our view that human rights defenders are now under intensive surveillance by security and intelligence agents whilst carrying out their lawful business and in further contravention of their fundamental rights and freedoms.

Women bore the brunt of this unconstitutional conduct as they were forced to take out private and personal effects from their baggage in the presence of everyone, including their male colleagues and male members of the police and security forces. To add insult to injury, this process of illegal search was being done by male authorities. The security personnel eventually bundled all the people into their bus at 18:30hrs before ordering the driver to take the group back to Harare under heavy police escort. ZLHR is deeply disturbed by the unreasonable conduct of both the Zimbabwean and the Zambian authorities who appeared to be working in cahoots in order to deny SAPSN members entry into Zambia to attend activities organized by their colleagues in the Zambian civil society and the sub-region during the ongoing SADC Summit. Curiously, these activities have been attended by other regional representatives from ten different countries without such blatant harassment and unlawful conduct. That only the Zimbabwean delegation was denied entry into Zambia clearly suggests the work of a "hidden hand" meant to frustrate the freedoms of human rights defenders and the civil society from Zimbabwe to assemble and associate with the colleagues, to freely express themselves, and to engage SADC leaders on the issue of Zimbabwe. The arbitrary denial of entry constitutes a breach of these constitutional provisions as well as the right to freedom of movement both into and out of Zimbabwe. The conduct of the authorities also breaches state obligations in terms of regional and international human rights instruments such as the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights, the International Covenant on Civil & Political Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to which both Zimbabwe and Zambia are state parties. The unlawful conduct of the intelligence and security forces, with the complicity of the Zimbabwe Republic Police, must be brought to an immediate end, as must the impunity with which such individuals continue to act against legitimate human rights defenders.

ZLHR calls upon:

  • The Zimbabwe Republic Police to cease the unlawful arrest, detention, victimization and harassment of human rights activists under non-existent charges and the ongoing selective application of the law against human rights defenders.
  • The Commissioner of Police to ensure that his officers comply with their constitutional obligations and other legal obligations in the treatment of individuals and to immediately cease the disturbing practice of subjugating their authority to members of the intelligence service and/or military personnel.
  • The Minister of Home Affairs and the Commissioner of Police to immediately investigate the conduct of their subordinates in this matter, prosecute offenders and make public the steps taken to ensure such unlawful conduct does not recur.
  • The government of Zimbabwe to respect, protect, promote and fulfil the rights of persons in Zimbabwe to express themselves in all matters that affect their lives, as well as their freedom of assembly, association and movement, and thus immediately cease impeding these rights.
  • The government of Zimbabwe to further cease the practice of directing scarce public resources towards futile intelligence operations and personnel who arbitrarily harass law-abiding members of the citizenry in efforts to frustrate their legitimate activities and the exercise of their fundamental rights and freedoms.
  • The governments of both Zambia and Zimbabwe to respect provisions of regional and international human rights instruments to which they are States parties.

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