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Zimbabwe: WOZA activists arrested
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Zimbabwe.
Brief description of the situation :
The Observatory has been informed by Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) about the arbitrary arrest of nearly 300 demonstrators, including members of the NGO Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA), in Bulawayo and Harare.
According to the information received, on February 13, 2006, approximately 181 persons, mainly women, who were demonstrating under the banner of the NGO Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA), along with 14 children, were arrested in central Bulawayo, as they were dispersing from a peaceful protest against human rights violations. Among those arrested were four WOZA leaders, Mrs. Jennifer Williams, Mrs. Magodonga Mahlangu, Mrs. Emily Mpofu and Mrs. Maria Moyo, who were finger-printed and ordered to make statements. The detainees were charged with “organising an unlawful gathering” (Section 24 of the Public Order and Security Act). Their lawyers, who were prevented from seeing them, were told that they could see them on February 15, 2006.
Those arrested were allegedly exposed to heavy rains as they were detained in the open police courtyard at Bulawayo Central police station for several hours, before being moved to cells at around 10:30 pm.
Moreover, on February 14, 2006, over twenty uniformed police, armed with baton sticks, and some sporting full riot gear, arrested between 60 and 100 women from WOZA in Harare at lunchtime, as they gathered in the city centre as part of a peaceful protest against social and economic inequalities faced by women in Zimbabwe. The women were rounded up and callously loaded into trucks marked “City of Harare Municipal Police” to be taken to the Law and Order section at Harare Central police station. Mr. Tafadzwa Mugabe, a lawyer from the Rapid Reaction Unit of ZLHR, was harassed, verbally abused and finally arrested and bundled into the truck with his clients. Amongst the detainees are a considerable number of elderly women, as well as at least one young child of around four years of age.
These demonstrations are conducted every year in association with Valentine’s Day.
The Observatory expresses its deepest concern about these events, and urges the Zimbabwean authorities to conform with article 12.2 of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 9, 1998, which states that “The State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration”.
More generally, the Observatory reiterates its concern about the situation of human rights defenders in Zimbabwe, who face serious risks to their security as well as infringements of their freedoms of expression and association.
Action requested :
Please write to the Zimbabwean authorities, urging them to :
i. Guarantee, in all circumstances, the physical and psychological integrity of all persons detained, including Mrs. Jennifer Williams, Mrs. Magodonga Mahlangu, Mrs. Emily Mpofu, Mrs. Maria Moyo, Mr. Tafadzwa Mugabe, all WOZA members, as well as of all human rights defenders in Zimbabwe;
ii. Ensure that those arrested be immediately released and granted a fair and impartial trial so that all charges against them be dropped, as they are arbitrary;
iii. Put an end to all acts of harassment against WOZA members and all human rights defenders in Zimbabwe;
iv. Conform with the provisions of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, in particular its article 1 which states that “Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realisation of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”, and article 12(2) above-mentioned;
v. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Zimbabwe.
President of Zimbabwe, Mr. Robert G. Mugabe, Office of the President, Private Bag 7700, Causeway, Harare, Zimbabwe, Fax : +263 4 708 211
Mr. Khembo Mohadi, Minister of Home Affairs, Ministry of Home Affairs, 11th Floor Mukwati Building, Private Bag 7703, Causeway, Harare, Zimbabwe, Fax : +263 4 726 716
Mr. Patrick Chinamasa, Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Fax: + 263 4 77 29 99
Mr. Augustine Chihuri, Police Commissioner, Police Headquarters, P.O. Box 8807, Causeway, Harare, Zimbabwe, Fax : +263 4 253 212 / 728 768 / 726 084
Mr. Sobuza Gula Ndebele, Attorney-General, Office of the Attorney, PO Box 7714, Causeway, Harare, Zimbabwe, Fax: + 263 4 77 32 47
Mrs. Chanetsa, Office of the Ombudsman Fax: + 263 4 70 41 19
Ambassador Mr. Chitsaka Chipaziwa, Permanent Mission of Zimbabwe to the United Nations in Geneva, Chemin William Barbey 27, 1292 Chamb้sy, Switzerland, Fax: + 41 22 758 30 44, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please also write to the embassies of Zimbabwe in your respective country.
Geneva - Paris, February 14, 2006
Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.
The Observatory, a FIDH and OMCT venture, is dedicated to the protection of Human Rights Defenders and aims to offer them concrete support in their time of need.
The Observatory was the winner of the 1998 Human Rights Prize of the French Republic.
To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
Tel and fax FIDH: 33 1 43 55 55 05 / 01 43 55 18 80
Tel and fax OMCT: + 41 (0) 22 809 49 39 / 41 22 809 49 29
 The Observatory recalls that Mrs. Jennifer Williams is nominated for the 2006 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders (MEA), See Observatory Press Release, February 13, 2006.