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    November 22, 2013

    Today’s acquittal of a key Zimbabwean human rights defender is encouraging, but the fact that it comes after three years of harassment is further confirmation that the police continue to abuse the law to hamper the work of human rights defenders, Amnesty International said.

    Abel Chikomo, Director of the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, was brought to court in 2011 on charges of running an ‘illegal’ organization after it conducted a survey on transitional justice in Harare’s Highfield suburb. The judge today found he “had no case to answer”.

    “Today’s ruling confirms what Amnesty International has said all along – the Zimbabwean authorities never had a legal leg to stand on when they brought Abel Chikomo to court,” said Aster van Kregten, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Africa.

    “Bringing unfounded criminal charges against human rights defenders is one of the tools which have been consistently used to harass and intimidate Zimbabwe’s civil society.

    September 19, 2013

    Today’s acquittal of 21 human rights and opposition activists by Zimbabwe’s High Court leaves the authorities with serious questions to answer about police misconduct in the aftermath of a police officer’s murder, Amnesty International said.

    "This acquittal of the 21 activists is a positive development – Amnesty International has always believed that most, if not all, of the accused had been arrested as a result of a politicized investigation into the death of the police officer,” said Noel Kututwa, southern Africa director at Amnesty International.

    "This tragic loss of a police officer’s life could have been professionally investigated without the human rights violations that have now tainted it. Police investigations must be competent, thorough, prompt, and impartial.”

    Seven activists from Morgan Tsvangirai’s opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) remain on trial over the murder of police officer Petros Mutedza in the Harare suburb of Glen View in 2011.

    August 12, 2013

    By Stephanie McBride, Zimbabwe coordinator, Amnesty International Canada (English)

    On the morning of July 31st, I woke up to messages of hope and optimism spread across my Facebook feed, my morning news, and my inbox. Many of my friends in Zimbabwe had posted statuses and updates about the elections that day, which would determine the composition of the House of Commons and the Senate as well as the future President of Zimbabwe.

    Very few incidents of violence were reported during or immediately after the elections. The chief of the African Union monitoring mission, Olusegun Obasanjo, stated that although “there are incidences that could have been avoided…we do not believe that these incidents will amount to the results not reflecting the will of the people.” Shortly before the announcement of a landslide victory for Robert Mugabe, who is reported to have captured 61% of the vote, opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) announced that the election was a “huge farce.” He has since mounted a legal challenge of the election results and is now discussing a boycott of all government institutions.

    August 06, 2013

    Women political activists in rural Zimbabwe told Amnesty International they have been threatened with violence and forced to flee with their children for refusing to reveal their vote to supporters of Robert Mugabe's party during harmonized elections.

    The women said they resisted instructions from Zanu-PF supporters to feign illiteracy, blindness or physical injury, which would have meant someone else marking the ballot on their behalf,

    At least six women said they left home with their 12 young children after facing intimidation from village heads in Mukumbura district, Mashonaland Central Province soon after the 31 July poll.

    "It appears the ZANU-PF supporters wanted to ensure that these women did not vote for the other parties and tried to compromise the secrecy of the ballot," said Noel Kututwa, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Africa.

    "The Zimbabwean police must guarantee the safety of political activists in rural areas following these reports of politically motivated displacement. The authorities have a duty to investigate any threats of violence and ensure those responsible are brought to justice."

    July 12, 2013

    Zimbabwean police are continuing to target and intimidate human rights defenders ahead of elections later this month according to a new report by Amnesty International.

    Walk the Talk details how the police have conducted systematic raids on offices, arbitrarily arrested human rights defenders and seized equipment to intimidate and disrupt the work of organizations carrying out election related human rights work
    .
    “The clampdown on the work of human rights defenders is a worrying indicator that government agencies remain actively hostile to civil society,” said Noel Kututwa, Amnesty International’s Africa Deputy Programme Director.

    “Zimbabwe’s security forces must respect and protect fundamental freedoms as the country prepares for a high stakes election at the end of July.”

    At the end of 2012, amid speculation that Zimbabwe would hold elections as early as March 2013, Amnesty International documented increased targeting of human rights defenders and civil society organisations.

    June 13, 2013

    Zimbabwe’s government must focus on protecting human rights in the run-up to elections, Amnesty International said today as the country’s leaders publicly disputed the date the vote should be held.

    “Whatever date is decided for the election, the government’s absolute priority must be making sure the violence that erupted during the 2008 vote is not repeated,” said Netsanet Belay, Amnesty International’s Africa director.

    “All the rights enshrined in Zimbabwe’s new constitution must be respected by the security forces. This is especially important in view of the role they played in organizing violence against perceived political opponents of the then government in 2008.

    “The rights to freedom of assembly for all must be respected. Police must not arbitrarily apply provisions of the Public Order and Security Act (POSA) to stop meetings of civil society groups and other political parties as has happened previously.

    June 13, 2013

    Southern African leaders must ensure human rights are prioritized in the run-up to elections in Zimbabwe, Amnesty International said ahead of a key summit on the country.

    The Southern African Development Committee (SADC) meets Saturday in Maputo, Mozambique to review the electoral process in Zimbabwe, where a general election will be held before 31 July.

    “The SADC has played a critical role in easing the tension in Zimbabwe since the political violence of 2008. Now it has the duty to ensure that the coming elections are held in an environment free from human rights violations, including violence,” said Noel Kututwa Amnesty International's Africa Deputy Program Director.

    “Specifically, the SADC should immediately deploy human rights monitors to Zimbabwe to oversee the period before, during and after the elections."

    On 31 May, Zimbabwe’s Constitutional Court ruled that elections must be held before the end of July.

    May 22, 2013

    Zimbabwe’s new constitution presents a golden opportunity for the country to break away from a culture of impunity for human rights violations, Amnesty International said today.

    President Robert Mugabe today signed into law a new constitution, following a three-year constitution-making process to replace the Lancaster House constitution adopted at independence in 1980.

    “The new constitution is a positive development with the potential to increase ordinary people’s enjoyment of their basic rights,” said Noel Kututwa, Amnesty International's Africa deputy director.

    “Not only is the world watching whether the country has truly turned the corner on this historic day, but millions of people in Zimbabwe hope that this new constitution will usher in a new political order where human rights are respected and protected.”

    The constitution-making process suffered ongoing delays and controversy, but March's referendum on the new constitution passed off relatively peacefully and resulted in an overwhelming ‘yes’ vote.

    May 10, 2013

    By Stephanie McBride, Amnesty International Canada’s Zimbabwe Coordinator

    When I lived in Zimbabwe last year, my friends and I would often talk politics. President Robert Mugabe had ruled the country for their entire lives. Our discussions focused on their frustration— frustration that genuine political engagement with civil society remained out of reach; frustration that public declarations and policy statements amounted to very little in practice; and frustration that the political process involved taking one step forward and two steps back.  

    A step forward was taken in March, when a national referendum led to the adoption of a new constitution. Citing a “peaceful, successful, and credible” referendum, the European Union terminated sanctions against 81 Zimbabwean officials, leaving only 10 people on the list, including President Robert Mugabe. The new constitution limits the President to two five-year terms and includes a bill of rights which stipulates freedom of expression and freedom of the press.

    March 21, 2013

    Prominent human rights lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa must be immediately and unconditionally released, Amnesty International said after she was denied bail in a court appearance on Wednesday.

    Mtetwa was arrested on Sunday 17 March when she responded to a client whose home was being searched by police in Harare. She remained in custody despite a High Court order for her immediate release being issued at around 1am Monday morning.

    “Beatrice Mtetwa is the unfortunate victim of arbitrary arrest and unlawful detention and must be released immediately,” said Noel Kututwa, Amnesty International’s southern Africa director.

    “It’s staggering that while Zimbabwe is in the process of adopting a new constitution which provides a stronger bill of human rights, lawyers in the course of their lawful duty are being so blatantly harassed and intimidated.”

    Beatrice Mtetwa responded to the call of a client, Thabani Mpofu, who is a staff member in Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's office, on Sunday morning during a police search of his home. When she arrived at the premises police were already conducting the search.

    March 20, 2013

    Prominent human rights lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa must be immediately and unconditionally released, Amnesty International said after she was denied bail in a court appearance on Wednesday.

    Mtetwa was arrested on Sunday 17 March when she responded to a client whose home was being searched by police in Harare. She remained in custody despite a High Court order for her immediate release being issued at around 1am Monday morning.

    “Beatrice Mtetwa is the unfortunate victim of arbitrary arrest and unlawful detention and must be released immediately,” said Noel Kututwa, Amnesty International’s southern Africa director.

    “It’s staggering that while Zimbabwe is in the process of adopting a new constitution which provides a stronger bill of human rights, lawyers in the course of their lawful duty are being so blatantly harassed and intimidated.”

    Beatrice Mtetwa responded to the call of a client, Thabani Mpofu, who is a staff member in Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's office, on Sunday morning during a police search of his home. When she arrived at the premises police were already conducting the search.

    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.

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