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African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights

Press Release on the Alleged Persecution of Human Rights Defenders in Zimbabwe

The Special Rapporteur of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) on Human Rights Defenders in Africa, Adv. Reine Alapini-Gansou, expresses her profound concern following information she received regarding the alleged persecutions of human rights defenders during peaceful demonstrations following the opposition call for a “prayer meeting” on Sunday 11 th March 2007 in Harare, Zimbabwe .

The Special Rapporteur expresses particular concern regarding the killing of Gift Tandare on 11 March 2007, the youth Chairperson of the National Constitutional Assembly and the arrest and detention of ten student leaders and two members of the 'Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition'.

It is also alleged that on 13 March 2007, Promise Mkwananzi, President of the Zimbabwe National Students' Union (ZINASU), Washington Katema, Coordinator of ZINASU, and ZINASU members Zwelithini VikiKudakwashe MapundaTellington Kwashira, may have been arrested and detained along with Emily Nkhungwa and Roderick Chirowodza, two members of their partner organisation, the 'Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition ', and five members of the 'Students Christian Movement of Zimbabwe'.

The Special Rapporteur is extremely worried that the above incidents followed from the events of 11 March 2007 which resulted in the mass arrest and detention of more than seventy people, members of the opposition and human rights defenders, including prominent human rights activists Mike Davies, chairperson of the Combined Harare Residents' Association (CHRA), Madock Chivasa, Spokesperson for the National Constitutional Assembly, Dr Lovemore Madhuku, member of the National Constitutional Assembly and Gladys Hlatsayo, Information Officer for the Crisis Coalition, who were due to take part in the Save Zimbabwe Campaign prayer meeting in the Highfields Township in Harare. The African Commission has received numerous reports alleging police brutality, ill-treatment and torture of a number of those arrested and detained.

The Special Rapporteur is concerned that the police in Zimbabwe may be using the Public Order and Security Act (POSA) to arrest and persecute human rights defenders, as it may have been evidenced by the recent detentions of 11 and 13 March 2007; to prevent them to carry out their legitimate activities in defence of human rights.

The Special Rapporteur urges the Zimbabwe authorities to take all necessary measures to guarantee the physical and psychological integrity of all human rights defenders and to ensure in all circumstances that human rights defenders and organizations are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals. She further urges the Zimbabwe authorities to order an immediate, impartial and prompt investigation into the killing of Gift Tandare and the alleged police brutality and torture of those arrested and ensure that the results of the investigation are made public and those responsible brought to justice.

The Special Rapporteur would like to remind the Government of the Republic of Zimbabwe of its human rights obligations under the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defender, the GrandBay and Kigali Declarations, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and other international human rights instruments ratified by Zimbabwe.