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UN special rapporteur petitions Mnangagwa over human rights abuses

Mary Lawlor, the UN special rapporteur on human rights defenders, says she has written to the Zimbabwean government about “multiple allegations of arbitrary arrests, excessive use of force, and ill-treatment by police officers against the human rights defenders”.

Lawlor accused the Zanu-PF regime of orchestrating “what appears to be the systemic and arbitrary targeting of human rights defenders” who are members of the Amalgamated Rural Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ).

This comes after the “years-long harassment of members of the Amalgamated Rural Teacher’s Union of Zimbabwe including the recent arrest of 16 members while exercising their right to assemble peacefully”.

They were arrested for demanding to be paid in hard currency a monthly salary of US$540 as they marched and sang while holding placards in Harare central business district (CBD).

“According to the information received, anti-riot police violently interrupted the peaceful demonstration, instructing demonstrators to lie on the ground, some of whom they reportedly beat with batons.

“A number of demonstrators were arrested, among whom were 16 human rights defenders from ARTUZ,” Lawlor said in a statement.

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“They were initially questioned at Harare Central police station without the presence of their lawyers, though they were allowed access later that day. They did not receive medical attention for their injuries sustained until the evening.

“The 16 human rights defenders were reportedly charged under Section 37(1)(a) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act for “participating in a gathering with intention to promote violence, bigotry and breaches of peace”.

“They were presented before Harare Magistrates Court on 14 January 2022 after which they were transferred to Harare Remand prison. The 16 were released on bail of 5,000 ZWL (approx. 15.50 USD) on 17 January 2022 and are cited before court on 17 February 2022.

Meanwhile, “in the communication we expressed our deep concern at what appears to be the systematic and arbitrary targeting of human rights defenders at ARTUZ who are working to promote the right to education and the right to an adequate standard of living for educators in rural areas.

Lawlor said “we are deeply concerned in particular by multiple allegations of arbitrary arrests, excessive use of force, and ill-treatment by police officers against the human rights defenders.

“We are concerned that such severe attacks, along with the frequent charges and harassment of its members are an attempt to stifle the work of the organisation.

“We are furthermore concerned for the effect that such targeting may be an attempt to dissuade others from standing up and peacefully assembly for the right to education in the country,” she added. Nehanda Radio