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Abel Chikomo's trial fails to kick-off"¦as state withdraws summons

The trial of the Executive Director of Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum Abel Chikomo, scheduled for today, Wednesday 25 July 2012 failed to kick-off after State prosecutor Innocent Chingarande withdrew summons issued against Chikomo. He advised the court that the State was not ready to proceed with the matter. It was agreed that the State would have to serve fresh summons to Mr Chikomo if they decide to proceed with the case.

Chikomo is being charged with contravening Section 6 (3) subsection 1 of the Private Voluntary Organisations (PVO) Act, which amounts to running an "unregistered € organisation. Chikomo was served with summons on the 3rd of July 2012 by two police officers identified as Sergeant Ndawana and Detective Chipwanya to stand trial at the Harare Magistrates Court on Wednesday the 25th of July 2012.

Chikomo denied the charge, on the basis that The Forum, as a common law universitas [association with legal personality distinct from its members] is recognized by section 89 of the Constitution, and as such is not required to register under the Act. According to Chikomo the charges were pressed following a door to door survey on transitional justice which was held by The Forum in Harare's Highfields suburb. The State argued that the survey was illegal since the organisation is not registered as a Private Voluntary Organisation (PVO).

The State further claims that Chikomo unlawfully instructed two of his employees to carry out the activities with the intention to obtain people's recommendations on the preferred transitional justice mechanism for Zimbabwe, without the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum first registering with the Social Welfare Department under the Private Voluntary Organisation Act. However, the accusations are not true as The Forum is operating entirely in accordance with the laws of Zimbabwe and is registered as a common law association as provided for under the constitution, making it exempt from registration as a private voluntary organization.

The continued move by the police to deliberately harass human rights defenders in Zimbabwe is a serious cause for concern. Since the beginning of 2011 the police have raided NGO Forum and Chikomo's office, summoned him to the police station for questioning and pulled down his organisation's billboards.

 

The Forum constitutes of nineteen human rights member NGOs in Zimbabwe who advocate against violence and torture in the country. Organizations such as the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum are there to stand and speak for the voiceless who continue to be victimized and tortured at the hands of state sponsored political repression. The government must allow human rights defenders to carry out their activities free of any hindrances and stop any kind of harassment against human rights defenders.

 

The government must allow human rights defenders to carry out their activities free of any hindrances and stop any kind of harassment against human rights defenders.

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