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Human rights defenders in Zimbabwe are systematically targeted and subjected to arbitrary detention, arrest, disappearance and torture.
Legislation severely curtails freedom of expression, assembly, movement and association and has led the UN Special Representative on human rights defenders to state, back in 2006, that “the human rights community as a whole, and defenders individually, are at a critical level of risk”. This statement remains valid as of today.
Despite the challenges faced, the human rights defenders community in Zimbabwe is well organised, active and broad-based in terms of issues and actors involved. It includes NGOs, faith-based groups, human rights lawyers, student activists, social movements, community-level activists, trade unionists and members of the political opposition. Womens’ rights defenders are prominent.
Over the years the government has introduced increasingly repressive legislation which has been used against human rights defenders, including:
the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, used by the Government effectively to silence journalists and close down media-outlets seen as critical of its policies;
the Public Order and Security Act (POSA), which has severely limited the right to freedom of assembly for human rights defenders and has restricted their possibilities to engage in and organise peaceful protests. Hundreds of human rights defenders, including independent media-workers and trade unionists, have been arbitrarily arrested or detained under this legislation. In many such cases the charges are subsequently dropped and those arrested released without charge;
and, the Private Voluntary Organisations Act, revived by the Government in 2002 and used to intimidate and harass NGOs, including human rights organisations.
In the majority of cases, the Zimbabwean authorities are the alleged perpetrators of violations against human rights defenders, including repeated stigmatisation by the Government and state surveillance agencies.
Human rights defenders detained under the POSA have reportedly been subjected to ill-treatment, harassment and intimidation by the police while in custody, including physical assaults and denial of access to lawyers, food and medical care. There has also been excessive use of force by the police to disperse peaceful demonstrations organised by human rights defenders.
Most recently, the situation of human rights defenders has worsened due to the violence and abuses perpetrated by Government authorities and its supporters in connection to the general elections of 2008. The insecurity and new wave of violence and abductions that ensued contributed to making the situation even more critical.
28 November 2013
22 November 2013
14 November 2013
17 September 2013
18 June 2013
Zimbabwe: Human rights defenders Ms Jenni Williams, Magodonga Mahlangu and Taurai Nyamanhindi arrested by police during peaceful demonstration
Zimbabwe : Think tank Research and Advocacy Unit (RAU) banned from launching a report on the voters’ roll
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*[http://www.hrforumzim.com Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum]