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Center denounces arrest of ZimRights director
Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights
January 17, 2013
January 16, Mr. Machisa was denied
bail by a Harare Magistrate and remanded in custody until January
30 on dubious grounds. The magistrate, Tendai Mahwe, reasoned that
granting bail in this case was unacceptable for three reasons. First,
Mr. Machisa's alleged offense was meant to "discredit national
institutions," and second, the court needs additional time
to gather necessary evidence. Third, the magistrate argued that
the public would "lose confidence in the justice system"
if Mr. Machisa, or his deputy, were released from prison, particularly
since the case is of "national interest."
The Robert F.
Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights (RFK Center) denounced
the arrest of Okay
Machisa, director of the Zimbabwe
Human Rights Association (ZimRights) and the most recent target
in a series of arrests against Zimbabwean civil society activists
in the lead up to the nation's 2013 election.
of last year, nearly a dozen organizations - including Women
of Zimbabwe Arise, Counseling
Services Unit, and the Gays
and Lesbians of Zimbabwe - have experienced harassment in the
form of office raids, multiple arrests, and physical abuse at the
hands of police. Mr. Machisa's arrest, on the grounds of conspiring
to "commit voter registration fraud and publishing or communicating
falsehoods"occurred just one month after the arrest
of his deputy at ZimRights, Leo Chamahwinya.
human rights abuses, and intimidation against civil society activists
are nothing new in the lead up to Zimbabwean elections. During the
election cycle in 2008, when President Robert Mugabe's
hold on the presidency was threatened by voters, more than 300 members
from the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) were reportedly killed,
and countless more civic activists were abducted,
tortured, and disappeared by the police, security forces, and
associated militias. With elections once again on the horizon, it
is of paramount importance for the Zimbabwean government to cultivate
an environment that is conducive to peace, social cohesion, and
free and fair polls.
brazen steps that Zimbabwean authorities have taken to block civic
activism are an unsettling reminder of the violence and intimidation
that has marred past elections," said Santiago A. Canton, Director
of Partners for Human Rights at the RFK Center. "In December,
President Mugabe resolved to deregister so-called 'errant' civic
groups that 'deviate from their mandate' during his annual political
party conference in December. The international community, and in
particular, leaders from the Southern African Development Community,
must urge the government of Zimbabwe to immediately end all forms
of harassment and intimidation against civil society organizations
and human rights activists."
Okay Machisa and Leo
Chamahwinya remain in custody awaiting bail.
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