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Zim must end clampdown on dissent ahead of referendum
March 14, 2013
heads to the polls this weekend to vote on a proposed
new constitution, Amnesty International urges the authorities
to allow eligible civil society organizations to observe the process
without harassment and intimidation.
have seen a clampdown on dissent as a number of civil society organisations
have been raided by police and charged with spurious offences ranging
from ‘causing malicious damage to property’ and ‘smuggling’
radios into the country.
last week by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission stated that organisations
facing police investigations would be prevented from monitoring
authorities must stop this game playing and allow the referendum
to take place in a context that ensures the internationally guaranteed
rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly,”
said Noel Kututwa, Amnesty International’s southern Africa
polls in Zimbabwe have been marred by political violence and human
rights abuses. Saturday offers the country a chance to prove it
can make a break with the past.”
last Presidential elections
in 2008 more than 200 people died in election related violence.
Tens of thousands were internally displaced while more than 10,000
next general elections will take place later this year, most likely
In the past
six months, Amnesty International has documented police raids on
seven organizations. At least five of these are groups that have
been involved in voter registration and other polls-related activities.
Some of them have provided local election observers in previous
In a further
indication that the government is attempting to stifle freedom of
expression and alternative access to information, the police announced
a ban on short wave radios in Zimbabwe on 19 February. It is not
clear under which law this ban was made.
police searched the offices of Radio
Dialogue in Bulawayo, seized
180 radios and charged Zenzele Ndebele, the station manager, under
section 182 of the Customs and Exercise Act.
referendum is a litmus paper for the elections that will be held
later this year. Rather than using it as a practice run for suppression
and intimidation, the government must embrace it as an opportunity
to reinforce respect for human rights and the rule of law,”
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