Persecution of human rights advocates in Zimbabwe condemned

Chairwoman Hautala sent on 16 June a letter to the Ambassador of Zimbabwe to the EU demanding an immediate end to all politically motivated harassment by the Zimbabwean state security services against human rights advocates in the country.

Your Excellency,

I am writing to you concerning reports I have received of persecution and harassment of human rights advocates in Zimbabwe.

I trust you are well aware of the resolution the European Parliament adopted on 7th of April concerning the human rights situation in Zimbabwe and the individual cases that were there noted. The very same cases are naturally of great concern also to the European Parliament Subcommittee on Human Rights, which I chair.

To reiterate, the Parliament expressed concern over the increased in intimidation, arbitrary arrests, and disappearances of political opponents of Zanu-PF, with many MDC members, MPs and leadership, such as Energy Minister Elton Mangoma, co-Home Affairs Minister Theresa Makone and ousted Speaker of the Zimbabwean Parliament Lovemore Moyo, being targeted. Similarly, the Parliament noted that the Zimbabwean security services recently raided the offices of several NGOs, including Human Rights NGO Forum, Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, as well as the MDC’s headquarters, seized NGO documentation and arbitrarily detained NGO and MDC party staff for questioning. Moreover, it was noted that Jenni Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu, two leaders of the civil society organisation Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA), as well as Abel Chikomo, director of the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, and other human rights defenders, have faced systematic police harassment while on 19th of February 46 civil society activists were arrested in Harare by the security services on charges of treason for organising a public viewing of a video showing the recent popular uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia. It has been reported that while they were in custody, some of these activists have been tortured.

To add, I would also like to bring the cases of Ms. Florence Ndlovu the Regional Coordinator for Matabeleland province and Mr. Walter Dube, Paralegal Officer for Matabeleland, Midlands and Masvingo provinces for Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights), to your attention. It would appear that on 23 of May Ms. Ndlovu and Mr. Dube were arbitrarily arrested upon leaving a workshop in Tsholotsho, aiming to raise awareness of torture. Prior to their arrest, the workshop had been disrupted by the police. It would appear that their detention was initially denied by the police and after exceeding the maximum time limit of 48 hours of detention without charge, the police released Mr Dube from the Lupane police station. According to reports Ms. Ndlovu remains in detention under Section 31 of the Criminal Law for ”communicating false statements prejudicial to the State”. It is a matter of great concern to me that during my work as the Chair of the European Parliament Subcommittee on Human Rights many similar cases where human rights advocates, government critics and opponents have been reported to me. In most of these cases, the situation seems to be one where the government detains these people due to their activities.

Furthermore, I have become aware that in September 2010, 83 members of Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) and Men of Zimbabwe Arise (MOZA) were arrested after they marched on the country’s Parliament to express concerns around community safety and police behavior in Zimbabwean communities. It has also been reported that Owen Maseko was arrested on 26 March after participating in a show at the Bulawayo National Art Gallery, which depicted atrocities that took place during the 1980s in western Zimbabwe.

To conclude, it is imperative to recall that in its resolution the Parliament also demanded an immediate end to all politically motivated harassment, arrests and violence by the Zimbabwean state security services and stressed that those responsible for such abuses and violations must be held accountable.

In the spirit of open and frank dialogue, I wish to convey these concerns to you, hoping that we would be able to meet and discuss these issues soon.

Regards,

Heidi Hautala
Chairwoman of European Parliament Subcommittee on Human Rights

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