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Zimbabwe's arrest of peaceful protestors casts doubt on possibility
of credible referendum
February 14, 2013
Attacks by the
police on Zimbabwean human rights defenders cast doubt on the country's
ability to hold a credible constitutional
referendum and election this year, Amnesty International said
today after peaceful protestors were arrested and beaten.
of Zimbabwean women's social justice movement, Women
of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA), were arrested
outside the Zimbabwean parliament in Harare yesterday after they
handed out roses and teddy bears during their annual Valentines
coincided with the announcement
by the government that 16 March had been set as a tentative date
for the constitutional referendum and that elections could be held
some time in July.
The women, who
included, WOZA leaders Jenni Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu were
arrested after police fired tear gas at the peaceful demonstration
and beat protestors with baton sticks. A man who took a picture
of the women being arrested was also arrested. They were later released
most recent incident sounds yet another alarm bell for the exercise
of internationally guaranteed rights to freedom of expression, association
and peaceful assembly in advance of the referendum on a new constitution
and elections later this year," said Amnesty International's
southern Africa director Noel Kututwa.
rights violations by the police, including arbitrary arrests and
raids at offices of human rights defenders, go against the calls
for tolerance made by President Mugabe and Prime Minister Tsvangirai."
In recent months
Amnesty International has documented a series of arbitrary arrests
and raids targeted at key human rights groups suggesting the space
for political dissent is narrowing as the country prepares for the
referendum and election.
On Monday police
the office of the Zimbabwean
Peace Project (ZPP) in Harare.
officers stormed the ZPP office with a warrant to search for '"subversive
material and illegal immigrants".
No one was arrested
during the incident but police seized equipment and confidential
In an apparent
violation of the search warrant police returned to the ZPP offices
at night and attempted to search the offices for the second time.
The warrant only authorised the police to search the offices by
of the Zimbabwe Peace Project, Jestina Mukoko, was one of a number
of human rights defenders who were abducted in 2008 by state-security
agents. She was subject to torture
during her abduction.
the director of the Zimbabwe
Human Rights Association (ZimRights) was finally released
on bail on 29 January after two weeks in custody when the High Court
overruled an earlier dismissal of his bail application.
another ZimRights employee, arrested
on 13 December 2012 remains in custody and has been repeatedly denied
staff activists are being charged with publishing falsehoods, fraud
and forgery after allegedly conducting illegal voter registration.
is entering a critical period in its democratization process and
these blatant attempts to silence and intimidate critics must end,"
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