By Anna Chibamu
AMNESTY International has condemned as a mockery and blatant disregard of Zimbabwe’s criminal justice system, the on-going arrests, and abductions of political and human rights activists.
In a statement to note its dismay over the use of State security forces in blocking a peaceful anti-corruption demonstration Friday, Amnesty International said the assault of courageous activists demanding accountability and an end to graft were increasing in the country.
“The brutal assault on political activists and human rights defenders who have had the courage to call out alleged corruption and demand accountability from their government is intensifying,” Muleya Mwananyanda, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Southern Africa said.
“The persecution of these activists is a blatant abuse of the criminal justice system and mockery of justice.
“This latest witch-hunt and repression of peaceful dissent is a continuation of what we have seen in the country in recent years, including the abductions and arbitrary arrests of those who are critical of the government, in an attempt to muzzle differing views. The thwarting of the protest illustrates the Zimbabwean authorities’ total intolerance of criticism.”
Mwananyanda said several people had been arrested ahead of the #31July protests.
“Six activists have been arrested or abducted in the past few days to prevent the protests from taking place. Opposition MDC Alliance spokesperson Fadzayi Mahere and Henry Chivhanga, an activist fighting for rights of people with disabilities are among those who were arrested on Friday.
“Police also arrested the sister of investigative journalist Mduduzi Mathuthu on 30 July, and refused to release her until the journalist appeared at Bulawayo Central police station.”
He also accused the government using the Covid-19 pandemic as an excuse for restricting human rights.
“Zimbabwean authorities must stop using Covid-19 as a pretext for restricting human rights. Peaceful protest is not a crime, and the motivations for crushing this demonstration are plain to see.
“In the lead up to today’s planned protests, authorities have been beefing up security in main cities, including sealing off the Harare central business district, under the pretext of enforcing Covid-19 regulations.
“Zimbabweans must be allowed to freely exercise their human rights, including the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. The authorities must stop harassing, intimidating and arresting people who have done nothing more than peacefully express their opinions,” he said.