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women speak out against police abuse and torture
October 09, 2007
South Africa: Women activists in Zimbabwe have been beaten and forced
to strip by police and detained while with their babies, according
to a report alleging violations by security forces released
Tuesday by one of Zimbabwe's leading civil rights organizations.
of Zimbabwe Arise released results of a preliminary report showing
that 73 percent of an initial sample of 397 members have been arrested
more than once, 40 percent were tortured and 50 percent detained
longer than the allowed 48 hours. About 26 percent were injured
badly enough to receive medical treatment.
in 2003, has become a powerful voice in the deepening economic and
political crises in Zimbabwe. It has held over 100 peaceful protests
and is known for its annual Valentine's Day march in which red roses
are distributed in a call for love, peace and harmony in the country.
of WOZA have often been the target of unprovoked attacks,"
said Jenni Williams, one of the founders of the organization. Williams
has been arrested about 30 times has been living in safe houses
for the last three years.
organizations such as Amnesty International as well as human rights
bodies in Zimbabwe have made similar assessments that human and
political rights are increasingly under attack in the country.
types of violations have become commonplace in Zimbabwe as the government
seeks to prevent Zimbabweans from protesting against the continuing
devastating mismanagement of the economy, extensive and malicious
corruption and a total disregard for the well-being of Zimbabweans,"
Williams said. Williams was accompanied by a number of members and
a few - including a 19-year-old woman - gave an emotional account
of their time at the hands of police, often breaking down into tears.
Zimbabwe police was not immediately available. An official at Zimbabwe's
embassy in Pretoria, who would only give his name as P.T. Chigiji,
said he could not comment as he had not seen the report.
the report was done to highlight the violent conditions that still
exist despite reports about progress being made in talks between
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF party and the
President Thabo Mbeki, appointed by the Southern African Development
Community to lead the mediation efforts, said last week that the
negotiations were going well that there had been agreement that
the elections would be free and fair elections.
only occur if the process and the political climate in which it
takes places are fully free and fair. An essential component of
this climate is the absence of violence," Williams said.
Mbeki has been
criticized for advocating what he calls quiet diplomacy over confronting
Mugabe, who is accused of overseeing his country's economic and
is part of a civil society group that is meeting with the team involved
in the mediation efforts, said her organization was giving Mbeki
"the benefit of the doubt." But she expressed concern
the talks focused too much on political power and not enough on
the social, economic and political rights of Zimbabweans.
will continue to put pressure of the South African government so
that they hear and can respond to the call of ordinary South Africans,"
said her organization rejected recent constitutional amendments
supported by the opposition Movement for Democratic Change in what
was described as a show of faith in the negotiations. Critics say
the changes further consolidate ZANU-PF's power.
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