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WOZA seeks redress at African Commission on Human and People’s Rights
Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA)
April 17, 2013

Weary of the ceaseless arrests, harassments and intimidation, and physical assaults without any effective domestic remedies, Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA), has filed a communication at the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR), the continent’s premier human rights mechanism, through its attorneys, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, and the Robert F. Kennedy Centre for Justice and Human Rights.

In the communication, which was filed on Saturday 13 April 2013 during the 53rd ordinary session of the ACHPR, WOZA seeks to challenge the pattern of impunity which has resulted in continued arrests, harassment, intimidation and physical assaults despite the rendering of a judgment by the Supreme Court in 2010, which stated that the rights of WOZA members had been violated, when the State arrested, detained, and prosecuted them for engaging in peaceful protest through public demonstrations. It was expected that after this judicial pronouncement, authorities would cease the persecution of WOZA, but authorities have continued with the harassment of WOZA members, charging them under various sections of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act for offences ranging from disturbing the peace to criminal nuisance and bizarrely kidnapping among other provisions of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act.

This state of affairs is in flagrant disregard of WOZA’s rights to peaceful protest which are guaranteed under the African Charter to which Zimbabwe has been a state party since 1986. The filing of this communication is timely in that, given the imminence of the general elections, it is essential that civic movements such as WOZA be permitted to express their opinions freely and publicly assemble around matters of human rights and public interest. The curtailment of public discourse in the form of peaceful protest critical of the current Inclusive Government undermines the constitutionally guaranteed rights of all Zimbabweans to their rights to freedoms of expression and assembly.

Therefore, WOZA is requesting the Commission to inter alia grant provisional measures interdicting the state from interfering with their right to peaceful protest and public demonstrations, particularly in the time period between the date of filing the communication and the 2013 elections, as well as reform of policies, and practices incompatible with the African Charter and international law, particularly those that restrict the right to engage in peaceful protest and public demonstrations. The ACHPR is also being asked to recommend to the government of Zimbabwe to adopt policies and measures such as trainings and policy directives that enhance the effective implementation of all domestic laws in a manner that promotes the enjoyment of the rights to freedom and assembly

The uninhibited exchange of ideas, opinions and information is the very lifeblood of democracy, and through this Communication it is hoped that the continent’s premier human rights mechanism makes a definitive pronouncement on the rights of protest.

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