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ZLHR CONDEMNS GALZ RAIDS AND STATE-SPONSORED HOMOPHOBIA AGAINST LGBTs

Press Statement

22 August 2012

ZLHR CONDEMNS GALZ RAIDS AND STATE-SPONSORED HOMOPHOBIA AGAINST LGBTs

ZIMBABWE Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) is perturbed by the sustained attacks, harassment and persecution of members of the Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ), including police raids and property seizure from the organisation's offices on Monday 20 August 2012 - the second swoop inside one month.

More than 20 police officers from the Zimbabwe Republic Police on Monday 20 August 2012 raided the GALZ offices in Milton Park suburb, Harare. The police officers, including some in plain clothes, rummaged through the offices of the organisation and confiscated computers, Digital Versatile Discs, pamphlets, compact discs and various documents.

According to a search warrant shown to ZLHR lawyers, Tonderai Bhatasara, Dzimbabwe Chimbga, Jeremiah Bamu and Mandevere Marufu, who responded to the raid, the police claimed that GALZ is in "possession of pamphlets and fliers with information that promotes homosexuality for distribution". The police also alleged that GALZ director, Chesterfiled Samba, "unlawfully and intentionally distributed pamphlets and fliers with information that promotes homosexuality".

The raid and seizure of GALZ computers and other materials comes barely a fortnight after the police first raided the premises and arrested 44 GALZ members present there on Saturday 11 August 2012 during the launch of the GALZ Violations Report and Briefing on the Second Draft Zimbabwe Constitution. The 44 were detained for a night, questioned, and personal details recorded before they were released without charge. Still unappeased, the police at the weekend launched a manhunt for the 44 GALZ members and summoned some of them to report to their offices.

ZLHR condemns the illegal and arbitrary actions of the police who appear to have made it a pastime in recent months to pursue members of GALZ even where they have not committed any crimes to warrant the police's attention and intervention.

ZLHR has monitored and recorded several incidences in recent months where State actors have stoked up homophobia towards the GALZ community and people who are identified or perceived as being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT).

Of particular note is the hate speech from government figures who in May 2012 urged chiefs to banish "people who support homosexuality" from their communities and take away their land.

In July 2012, police summoned the director of GALZ to answer charges of allegedly undermining the authority of or insulting President Robert Mugabe in contravention of Section 33 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act.

The government should be ashamed that such State-sponsored homophobia has given rise to an increase in incidents of harassment, persecution, as well as unlawful arbitrary evictions, which are a violation of our national laws, as well as the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights, to which Zimbabwe is a signatory.

Harassment and persecution based on sexual orientation is a monumental tragedy and also a violation of international human rights law.

ZLHR reminds the police and the coalition government that the all-important international principles of human dignity and non-discrimination are protected in the Zimbabwe Constitution, as well as in regional and international treaties to which Zimbabwe is a party so there can be no justification for such harassment or persecution.

We urge the government to seriously heed the recommendations outlined by Navi Pillay, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, following her official visit to Zimbabwe, during which she advised that "there can be no justification for violence, harassment or stigmatization" against LGBT people.

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