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    March 15, 2013

    As Zimbabwe heads to the polls this weekend to vote on a proposed new constitution, Amnesty International urges the authorities to allow eligible civil society organizations to observe the process without harassment and intimidation.

    Recent months have seen a clampdown on dissent as a number of civil society organizations have been raided by police and charged with spurious offences ranging from ‘causing malicious damage to property’ and ‘smuggling’ radios into the country.

    An announcement last week by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission stated that organizations facing police investigations would be prevented from monitoring the referendum.

    “The Zimbabwean authorities must stop this game playing and allow the referendum to take place in a context that ensures the internationally guaranteed rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly,” said Noel Kututwa, Amnesty International’s southern Africa director.

    “Previous polls in Zimbabwe have been marred by political violence and human rights abuses. Saturday offers the country a chance to prove it can make a break with the past.”

    March 08, 2013

    The alert issued by Zimbabwe police on state television implying that prominent human rights defender Jestina Mukoko was on the run from the law is a new low in the recent crackdown on dissent, Amnesty International said.

    On Thursday night, Zimbabwe state-owned television ran two announcements implying that Mukoko, the director of the Zimbabwe Peace Project, was on the run and the announcements urged  members of the public to call the police with any information about her whereabouts.

    Mukoko, who was at her home when the announcements were made, voluntarily reported to Harare Central Police station Friday morning. She was charged with  several counts then released into the custody of her lawyers.

    “It is appalling that at this critical time when Zimbabwe is in the process of adopting a new constitution which provides a stronger bill of human rights, human rights defenders are coming under systematic attack,” said Noel Kututwa, Amnesty International’s southern Africa director.

    “The use of state media to publically portray Mukoko as some kind of fugitive is a regrettable new low for the government.”

    February 14, 2013

    Attacks by the police on Zimbabwean human rights defenders cast doubt on the country’s ability to hold a credible constitutional referendum and election this year, Amnesty International said today after peaceful protestors were arrested and beaten.  

    Eight members of Zimbabwean women’s social justice movement, Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA), were arrested outside the Zimbabwean parliament in Harare yesterday after they handed out roses and teddy bears during their annual Valentines Day demonstration.

    The arrests coincided with the announcement by the goverment  that 16 March had been set as a tentative date for the constitutional referendum and that elections could be held some time in July.

    The women, who included, WOZA leaders Jenni Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu were arrested after police fired tear gas at the peaceful demonstration and beat protestors with baton sticks. A man who took a picture of the women being arrested was also arrested. They were later released without charge.

    February 08, 2013

    Reports by Zimbabwean state media that a new hangman has been appointed raises fears that the country may be preparing to start executions again after a seven year hiatus, Amnesty International said today.

    Zimbabwe hasn’t conducted any executions since 2005, the same year that the country’s last hangman retired.

    “This macabre recruitment is disturbing and suggests that Zimbabwe does not want to join the global trend towards abolition of this cruel, inhuman and degrading form of punishment,” said Noel Kututwa, Amnesty International’s southern Africa director.

    “The death penalty is a violation of the right to life which is recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights instruments to which Zimbabwe is a state party.”

    Zimbabwe’s new draft Constitution, which will be put to referendum in the next few months, exempts women, men under 21 at the time of the crime and the over 70s from the death penalty. It also prohibits the imposition of the death penalty as a mandatory punishment.

    January 16, 2013

    A leading human rights activist in Zimbabwe was denied bail today following his arrest earlier this week as part of what Amnesty International said is an ongoing crackdown on freedom of expression in the country ahead of this year's presidential, parliamentary and local government elections.

    Okay Machisa, who was remanded in custody until 30 January, is the director of the Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights). He was arrested on Monday in the capital city Harare and charged with publishing falsehoods, fraud and forgery after allegedly conducting illegal voter registration.

    Another ZimRights official, Leo Chamahwinya, was arrested on 13 December 2012, and remains in detention. He faces the same charges.

    "This case appears to have the hallmarks of politically motivated prosecutions calculated to instill fear among human rights defenders as the country prepares for elections some time in the year," said Noel Kututwa, Amnesty International’s southern Africa director.


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