Zimbabwe: End Persecution & Harassment of Civil Society Activists

Zimbabwe: End Persecution & Harassment of Civil Society Activists

Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition demands that the government of Zimbabwe immediately brings to an end state security agents- orchestrated persecution of civil society activists, particularly that of Farai Maguwu, director of Mutare-based Centre for Research and Development (CRD) - a member organization of the Coalition.

Police from Mutare Central arrested Mr. Maguwu on the 3rd of June after he handed himself over following serious harassment and threats to members of his family and CRD employees. Mr. Maguwu was charged with what the Coalition believes to be spurious and politically motivated allegations of publishing or communicating falsehoods prejudicial to the State in contravention of section 31 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act. The allegations stem from a meeting Mr. Maguwu had on May 25 2010 with Kimberley Process Monitor for Zimbabwe, Abbey Chikane, to discuss human rights abuses and rampant smuggling of Marange diamonds.

The Kimberley Process should order an investigation into circumstances surrounding the arrest of Mr. Maguwu after meeting with the monitor, with the need to ascertain whether Mr. Chikane colluded with the state or not. Mr. Maguwu, who is represented by lawyer Tinoziva Bere, was initially held in detention in Mutare, but has since been transferred to Harare. However, without valid reason, Mr. Maguwu was held well past the 48 hour legal limit within which all accused persons must be brought before a court of law. By prolonging Mr. Maguwu's detention without trial, state security agents are punishing Mr. Maguwu for daring to expose injustice and for speaking out for the oppressed people of Marange.

The world is keenly following developments in this case and will not be silent in the face of this blatant persecution. The Coalition wishes to warn all state security agents not to harm or harass Mr. Maguwu, or else any they will be held individually liable for any mistreatment of Mr. Maguwu in custody.

The Coalition calls upon the government of Zimbabwe to respect Mr. Maguwu's basic rights to justice that include the constitutionally enshrined right to be brought before a court of law within 48hours. Mr. Maguwu's arrest is unwarranted interference with his liberty and with the work of CRD calculated to cow civil society activists into ignoring abuses by government, particularly the military in the Marange diamond fields. The Coalition is also aware that Mr. Maguwu was due to travel to Israel later this month to give evidence at the Kimberley Process plenary regarding abuses in Marange. This targeted persecution of Mr. Maguwu is meant to frustrate efforts by his organization to expose the excesses of the State.

Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition stands firm in solidarity with Mr. Maguwu and all CRD employees who are currently in hiding. The Coalition salutes CRD's commitment to human rights promotion and recalls that CRD is recipient of Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition's 2009 award for excellence in advancing democracy and governance issues. That state security agents have targeted CRD is testimony that CRD has become a formidable force in exposing abuses, corruption and other malpractices in Marange.

Meanwhile, the Coalition is greatly alarmed at the resurgence and escalation of attacks, harassment and persecution of civil society organizations and activists in recent months. In February 2010, Mrs. Gertrude Hambira, Vice Chairperson of Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition and Secretary General of General Agriculture and Plantation Workers Union (GAPWUZ), was forced to flee Zimbabwe into hiding following credible and serious threats on her life by state security agents operating under the auspices of the infamous Joint Operations Command (JOC). Persecution stemmed from publication of a documentary by GAPWUZ which detailed how farm workers suffered as a result of chaotic and violent farm invasions. Mrs. Hambira remains in hiding. The Zimbabwean authorities have done nothing to guarantee her safety.

In March 2010, police briefly detained Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (Zimrights) director, Okay Machisa in a failed attempt to stop his organization from carrying out a photo exhibition that featured victims of the 2008 electoral violence. Last month, police raided offices of Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ), yet another member organization of the Coalition and arrested two employees. The two employees, who were later granted bail, allege torture in police custody.

This abuse of Zimbabwe's criminal justice system to persecute and harass civil society activists makes even more urgent the case for a complete overhaul of the system to ensure that the judiciary, public prosecutors and state security agents are non-partisan, independent, impartial, and professional. Without a clean break with the past, Zimbabwe's transition to democracy will remain a pipe dream.

For further information please contact:

1. Sydney Chisi, Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition Spokesperson
Contact Number: +263 912 462 328

2. Pedzisai Ruhanya, Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition Programmes Manager
Contact Number: +263 912 471 670

3. Maria Mache, Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition Information Officer
Contact Number: +263912 471 668

4. Dewa Mavhinga, Regional Information and Advocacy Coordinator (South Africa)
Contact Number: + 27 73 5211 813

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