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Police arrest ZimRights employees over torture as Magistrate frees WOZA
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR)

May 23, 2011

Police on Monday 23 May 2011 arrested two Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights) employees for allegedly convening a workshop to conscientise villagers about torture and its effects in Tsholotsho, Matabeleland North province.

Police intercepted and arrested Florence Ndlovu, the ZimRights regional coordinator for Matabeleland province and Walter Dube, the organisation's paralegal officer for Matabeleland, Midlands and Masvingo provinces who were coming from Tshino Business Centre in Tsholotsho District, where the police had earlier on disrupted a torture workshop which was scheduled to be held on Monday 23 May 2011.

The police detained the two ZimRights employees at Nyamandlovu Police Station and denied Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) member lawyers Charles Moyo of Moyo and Nyoni Legal Practitioners and Jonathan Tsvangirai of Danziger and Partners Legal Practitioners access to their clients after mounting a rapid response to their arrest. The police denied detaining Ndlovu and Dube and claimed that the two ZimRights employees had been taken to Sipepa Business Centre despite evidence of their detention through the presence of their vehicle which was parked at the police station.

By Monday night, the lawyers were working on filing a habeas corpus petition to challenge the detention of the two ZimRights employees.

The police action in disrupting the ZimRights workshop is in defiance of a court order which was issued on Friday 20 May by Bulawayo Magistrate Ntombizodwa Mazhandu who interdicted some law enforcement agents from prohibiting the organisation from conducting the torture workshop in Matabeleland North province.

ZimRights was forced to engage the services of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) after the Officer Commanding Tsholotsho District in Matabeleland North banned the grassroots human rights organisation from holding the workshop after claiming that "the subject of torture is not in line with Zimbabwean culture".

Magistrate Mazhandu interdicted the police from disturbing or interfering in any way with the ZimRights workshop and ordered the rights organisation to proceed with the workshop as scheduled and promote its right to freedom of association and assembly as set out in Section 21 of the constitution and the right to freedom of expression as guaranteed under Section 20 of the Constitution.

Meanwhile, Bulawayo Magistrate Gideon Ruwetsa on Monday 23 May 2011 granted bail to six members of Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) who were arrested last week and charged with malicious damage to property.

The six WOZA members namely Teresia Phiri, Janet Dube, Juliet Nyathi, Thobekile Ncube, Sibekezele Nkomo, and Loyce Ndlovu were charged with contravening Section 140 of Criminal Law (Codification and Reform Act) Chapter 9:23, for malicious damage to property.

Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) member lawyers Kossan Ncube of Kossam Ncube and Partners and Godfrey Nyoni of Moyo and Nyoni Legal Practitioners represented the WOZA members.

The six WOZA members were ordered to pay $100 bail and to report once a fortnight to the police. They were also ordered to surrender their travel documents and to continue residing at their given residential addresses and not to interfere with State witnesses.

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