International Organizations Call for End to Harassment of Human Rights Defenders in Zimbabwe | Freedom House

International Organizations Call for End to Harassment of Human Rights Defenders in Zimbabwe

Washington

A group of seventeen leading non-governmental organizations from around the world today issued a protest to the government of Zimbabwe about the imprisonment, and intimidation of two prominent human rights defenders in the African country. 

The organizations comprise Amnesty International USA, Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, Freedom House, Human Rights Watch, TransAfrica Forum, Human Rights First, National Endowment for Democracy, Physicians for Human Rights, Institute for Policy Studies, Africa Action, Global Rights, Calling All Crows, Dispatch and State Radio, Schooner Fund, Just Associates, and Elias Fund.

In a public letter to Patrick Chinamasa, Zimbabwe’s Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs, the group stated that they are “greatly distressed” about the prolonged incarceration of Jenni Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu, activist leaders of Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA).

On 21 September, members of WOZA gathered for a peaceful demonstration, commemorating the International Day of Peace, when they were interrupted by riot police who beat the women with batons. Williams and Mahlangu were subsequently arrested on spurious charges of kidnapping and theft and denied bail. The activists were finally released on bail on October 4, after 13 days of imprisonment.

The letter urges the government to guarantee the safety of Williams and Mahlangu while in custody and to grant them a speedy and fair trial. It further calls for the protection of all human rights defenders in Zimbabwe, who continue to press the government to adhere to international human rights standards, access to basic services, and to improve living conditions.

The arrests come on the eve of the United Nation’s review of Zimbabwe’s human rights record, which will occur on October 10, 2011 as part of the Universal Periodic Review.  

Zimbabwe is ranked Not Free in Freedom in the World 2011, Freedom House's survey of political rights and civil liberties, and Not Free in Freedom of the Press 2011.

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