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ZLHR condemns arrest and assault of WOZA members
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR)

February 15, 2013

Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) unreservedly condemns the over-zealous actions of members of the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP), who arrested, detained and assaulted some members of the Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) in Harare and Bulawayo.

Police, on Wednesday 14 February 2013, without just cause and in their increasingly regular arbitrary manner, arrested nine WOZA members who were part of the annual Valentine's Day "love" protest outside Parliament building in central Harare. The WOZA members, who included Jenni Williams, the organisation's leader, were assaulted by police officers from the Police Reaction Group, who arrested them and surrendered them at Harare Central Police Station. They were released without any charges preferred against them after the intervention of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights member lawyer, Dr Tarisai Mutangi of Donsa-Nkomo and Mutangi Legal Practitioners. The WOZA members, who sustained injuries, filed a complaint for assault against the police officers who attacked them.

On Thursday 14 February 2013, police in Bulawayo arrested 195 WOZA members at a demonstration commemorating Valentine's Day and assaulted them before releasing some of them. Kossam Ncube, of Kossam Ncube&Partners Legal Practitioners, who is also the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights board member, who represented some of the WOZA members, was denied access to his clients on Thursday while Bertha Sibanda was charged with contravening Section 132 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act. Sibanda remains in detention.

It is saddening that the police continue to make the arrest, harassment and mistreatment of WOZA members a pastime.

The arrest, assault and detention of the WOZA members including blocking lawyers to consult their clients is a clear sign that the democratic and constitutional rights of Zimbabweans are still a remote reverie and that the coalition government has not changed the situation for the better as some would want us to believe. The right to organise and to assemble together with the aim of addressing issues of common concern is a human right and an important means by which citizens can influence their governments and leaders.

ZLHR urges the police and government to observe these basic human rights in the interest of upholding the rule of law.

The persecution of the defenceless WOZA members for exercising their right to freedom of assembly and association further indicates the shallow understanding of the law by members of the Zimbabwe Republic Police, who continue to misinterpret the provisions of the laws in Zimbabwe with impunity.

It is shameful that the police continue to haunt the WOZA members despite several clear pronouncements by the country's judiciary to the effect that they must stop abusing provisions of the Public Order and Security Act.

Such superfluous harassment buttresses the urgent need to inculcate a culture of reading among members of the police so that they can adequately appreciate the provisions of the laws of this country.

ZLHR remains available and willing to offer free lessons to the police on this so that they can refrain from conducting themselves in a fascist manner and in ways reminiscent of the colonial era.

Visit the ZLHR fact sheet

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