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take right to protest complaint to African Commission
Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA)
April 10, 2013
13th April 2013 Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) legal representatives
from Washington based Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human
Rights and Zimbabwe
Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) filed a communication to the
African Commission for Human and Peoples' Rights during its 53rd
session in Banjul, The Gambia.
in this communication are Jennifer Williams, Magodonga Mahlangu
and WOZA. The two WOZA leaders have been arrested over 50 times
in the 10 years of WOZA's existence. Williams has filed as the official
representative of Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA).
demonstrates Zimbabwe's clear and systematic pattern of suppression
of WOZA's rights to engage in peaceful protest and public demonstrations.
It details over 24 incidents of violations over the course of two
years of the Applicants' rights to freedom of expression, freedom
of assembly, freedom of association, freedom from arbitrary arrest
and detention, non-discrimination, and equal protection of the law-all
protected by the African Charter.
Article 6 of
the Charter states
that every individual shall have the right to liberty and to the
security of his person. No one may be deprived of his freedom except
for reasons and conditions previously laid down by law. In particular,
no one may be arbitrarily arrested or detained. Article 9 of the
Charter, protects the right to freedom of expression, and states
that every individual shall have the right to express and disseminate
his opinions within the law.
WOZA are of
the view therefore that the right to engage in peaceful protest
is an "essential and constituent element of democracies"
and anchored by the twin pillars of freedom of expression and freedom
finalization of this matter the two activists and WOZA members have
requested the African Commission to grant provisional measures interdicting
the Republic of Zimbabwe from interfering in any way with the Applicant's
right to peaceful protest and public demonstrations, particularly
in the time period between the date of filing this communication
and the 2013 Zimbabwean elections. In particular, the Applicants
requested the African Commission to interdict the Republic of Zimbabwe
to refrain from arresting or detaining the Applicants and other
members of WOZA when they are engaging in peaceful protest and public
demonstrations as protected by the Charter.
also requests that the Commission orders the Republic of Zimbabwe
take measures to facilitate the right to engage in peaceful protest
and public demonstrations and remove any restriction of the rights
of freedom of expression and assembly in law or practice that is
incompatible to the Human and Peoples Rights Charter.
The timing of
this communication is due to escalation of repression on civic society
organisations and the shrinking space for exercising and protecting
human rights as Zimbabwe gears for harmonised election.
WOZA took this
course of action after the Zimbabwe Republic Police have failed
to respect the Supreme Court ruling of 26 November 2010. (Jennifer
Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu v. Phathekile Msipha, the Minister
of Justice and the Attorney General, Judgment No. SC 22/10). The
ZRP continue to clamp down on WOZA and the repression has taken
the form of criminalising peaceful processions and WOZA gatherings.
The police have disturbed hundreds of peaceful processions, indiscriminately
beating and arresting over 3000 members. During the 10th peaceful
processions of Saint Valentine's Day on 13 February, in Harare and
in Bulawayo on 14 February 2013, police deployed tear gas, beat
and arrested members.
WOZA members who were marching
on 13th November 2012 to demand Bulawayo city council adhere to
water load shedding timetables and that the council deal with politicisation
of water supply were beaten, insulted and dumped at a graveyard.
The level of tribal insults and the symbol of dumping the members
at the graveyard are serious threats against the organisation and
its members. WOZA analysis points to a more direct tribal repression
being practiced in Bulawayo by Police officers based there. This
repression is part of the marginalisation of the region despite
the fact that the orders carried out by Bulawayo police officers
originate from the same command structure in Harare.
harassment by Police officers, WOZA have painstakingly attempted
to engage the police leadership. Specific request have been that
they follow the legal guidelines on dispersing peaceful protests
rather than perpetrating abuses. When this failed, letters of complaint
were written and ignored. The Joint Monitoring and Operating Committee
(JOMIC) refused to deal with WOZA complaints arguing that their
mandate was to focus on political parties despite clear requirements
detailed under the global political agreement.
After the so-called
Arab spring, repression increased and the Supreme Court ruling became
completely ignored, leaving the human rights defenders without a
route to hold the Police accountable and their right to assembly
and peacefully express their views severely diminished.
Women of Zimbabwe
Arise (WOZA), a civic movement with a countrywide membership of
over approximately 85,000 women and men formed in 2002 to lobby
and advocate on issues affecting women and their families in Zimbabwe.
WOZA participates in a variety of campaigns locally and internationally
and has conducted hundreds of peaceful protests and public demonstrations
in Zimbabwe since 2002. WOZA's express aim is to mobilise Zimbabweans,
especially women, to demand social justice and it educates its members
about their rights and freedoms and asks them to fully participate
in all civic processes. WOZA conducts civic education programmes
and teaches its members nonviolent ways to speak out about their
the WOZA fact
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