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assaulted during International Day of Peace event in Zimbabwe
Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights (RFK Center)
September 19, 2013
The Robert F.
Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights (RFK Center) condemns
today’s assault on peaceful demonstrators from the civic group,
of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA). The physical brutality inflicted on
WOZA members, including National Coordinator Jenni Williams and
Programs Manager Magondonga Mahlangu, came on a day meant to commemorate
the International Day of Peace, which will be celebrated throughout
the world on September 21.
demonstration, which took place outside parliament in Harare, was
held under the banner of “Peace Must Deliver Freedom and Development
for All,” a reminder to Zimbabwe’s elected officials
that much work needs to be done to improve the country’s lack
of adherence to both domestic and international legal obligations.
intended to deliver a list of demands
in accordance with newly enshrined principles in Zimbabwe’s
constitution, including the right to peaceful assembly, freedom
of association, and free expression. Before WOZA members could make
their way to parliament, riot police actively obstructed their path
and reportedly began to physically assault upwards of 20 individuals.
Several WOZA members were also arrested, with reports that Magadonga
Mahlangu sustained multiple injuries after being beaten by police
batons and thrown into a waiting truck that was then driven to Harare
Central Police Station.
In March of
this year, the RFK Center, in collaboration with Zimbabwe
Lawyer’s for Human Rights (ZLHR), filed an application
before the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights
(ACHPR) to challenge the pattern of impunity in Zimbabwe, which
has resulted in continued arrests, harassment, intimidation, and
physical assaults on members of WOZA. The targeted crackdown on
WOZA’s peaceful demonstrations has persisted in spite of a
2010 Supreme Court of Zimbabwe ruling, which stated that the rights
of WOZA members had been violated by the state as it continued to
arrest, detain, and prosecute them for engaging in peaceful protest
through public demonstrations. The petition detailed more than two
dozen incidents of similar state-sponsored violence, establishing
a clear pattern of suppression of WOZA's constitutionally protected
disregard for the rights to peaceful assembly and civic activism
in Zimbabwe, as well as the mounting instances of police brutality,
are highly alarming," said Santiago A. Canton, Director of
Partners for Human Rights at the RFK Center. "As President
Mugabe prepares to speak at the United Nations General Assembly,
we urge the international community to confront his government’s
crackdown on civic activism. Mugabe must be held accountable for
his repeated, though so far seemingly empty, promises to foster
peace and tolerance following the country’s disputed elections.”
government of Zimbabwe has engaged in a systematic crackdown on
civil society and the human rights community, including arbitrary
detention of activists and opposition supporters, and widespread
violations against freedom of expression and access to information.
According to most recent reports, no charges were officially filed
against the three WOZA demonstrators that were detained. The women
remained in police custody for three hours, having been shuttled
to multiple locations throughout Harare.
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