Amnesty tracks increased human rights abuses
Written by KJW
LONDON – Human rights activists continued to be arrested, tortured and intimidated in Zimbabwe last year according to an Amnesty International report.
The damning annual report, released on Friday, highlights a number of horrific incidents of state sponsored violence – with police cracking down on peaceful campaigners, trade union members and representatives of human rights organisations.
Amnesty International spokesman, Simeon Mawanza, said activists continued to bear the brunt of human rights abuses and there had been an increase in the levels of state-sponsored violence since the announcement in 2010 of an election this year.
“After the setting up of the unity government in 2009 we saw increased freedom of expression in the country. But since a possible election in 2011 was announced in 2010 we have seen increased intimidation, arrest and torture of Human Rights defenders,” he said. According to the Amnesty report , least 186 members of Women of Zimbabwe Arise and Men of Zimbabwe Arise were arrested in 2010 during peaceful marches and protests.
In January 2010, 22 people were arrested in Bulawayo and beaten with batons before being released without charge.
Later on that year, activists were arrested in Harare during a peaceful demonstration and detained overnight in filthy conditions before being released. The WOZA national co-ordinator was arrested on the same day after trying to see which of the arrested activists needed medical attention.
In June, ZZZICOMP monitors Paul Nechishanu, Artwel Katandika and Shingairayi Garira were taken by Zanu (PF) supporters to a farm in Makonde where they were beaten with logs sustaining severe injuries. A trade union representative was forced to go into hiding and then flee the country after she was threatened with imprisonment by senior police officers.
Gertrude Hambira, Secretary General of the General Agricultural and Plantation Workers Union of Zimbabwe (GAPWUZ), was threatened with others about a video they made highlighting the plight of farm workers and violence on farms. Artists also came under fire. Owen Maseko, based in Bulawayo, was arrested after mounting an exhibition which depicted atrocities in the Matabeleland region in western Zimbabwe during the 1980s. He was charged with “undermining the authority of the President”, “inciting public violence” and “causing offence to people of a particular tribe, race, religion”, under POSA.
And Okay Machisa, National Director of the Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights), temporarily fled the country after being detained by police for his role in a photo exhibition about the 2008 political violence. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people continued to face persecution and the Operation Murambatsvina victims were found to be living in squalor six years after the forced eviction from their homes.
The report also highlighted a forced eviction of 250 people living at an informal settlement in Harare’s affluent Gunhill suburb. Police are reported to have given them 10 minutes to gather their possessions before setting them on fire. They arrested 55 people, including children, who were held at Harare central police station for several hours before lawyers intervened to get them released.
Mawanza criticised political parties in Zimbabwe for not upholding people’s human rights, agreed in the Global Political Agreement with birthed the unity government in 2009. He said: “One of the critical things that needs to be happening at a SADC level is political leaders putting pressure on all the political parties in Zimbabwe to adhere to what was agreed on in GPA. The Human Rights Commission needs to be allowed to operate. Regional and global leaders need to give strong support to the people on the frontline in Zimbabwe who are championing human rights.”
There was some movement forward with loosening of restrictions on the media and Parliament debated a bill to reform the repressive Public Order and Security Act (POSA) but Mawanza pointed out that journalists continued to face intimidation. A warrant for the arrest of Wilf Mbanga, Editor of The Zimbabwean, issued late last year has still not been withdrawn – despite the fact that it has been proved that the newspaper never carried the story alleging that Mugabe had met with senior officials to plot the murder of a ZEC official in 2008 that it is accused to have done. The police are aware of which publication actually wrote the article – but have taken no action to correct their mistake.
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