Month: Jan 2020

Drop the charges against the Zimbabwe 7 if there is not enough evidence to proceed with the trial – SAHRDN

The Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (SAHRDN) expresses concern at the delays in the finalisation of the case against 7 human rights defenders (HRDs) facing charges of subverting a constitutional government in Zimbabwe. The SAHRDN calls on the authorities in Zimbabwe to withdraw charges as it is clear that the state does not have adequate evidence to proceed to trial. Serial postponements of the case have become so disruptive to the lives of the HRDs.

The case against Stabile Dewa, George Makoni, Rita Nyampinga, Gamuchirai Mukura, Nyasha Frank Mpahlo, Tatenda Mombeyarara and Farirai Gumbonzvanda now commonly known as that of the Zimbabwe7 has been postponed to 30 April 2020. When the Zimbawe7 appeared in court on 31 January, the prosecutor argued that the Prosecutor General of Zimbabwe Mr Kumbirai Hodzi was still reviewing the docket with charges against the HRDs. This is not the first time that the prosecutor in charge of the case on the day has blamed the request for postponement on the Prosecutor General. The SAHRDN which has been following this case also noticed that the same argument was used as the reason for the postponement on 7 January 2020 when the case came up at court for trial.

“We remain concerned at the delays in the finalisation of this case,” said Roselyn Hanzi the Executive Director of ZLLHR and board member at the SAHRDN. “Delays in finalisation of the matter results in serious potentially irreparable prejudice being suffered by the HRDs. Given the seriousness of the charges and the disruption of their lives as their freedom is still curtailed. They still have bail reporting requirements and are required to frequently report at police stations” she added.

Faced with these frequent unnecessary delays in the finalisation of the case, Jeremiah Bhamu of ZLHR acting for the HRDs imposed a condition that if the matter was to be postponed again then the passports for HRDS which the state was withholding had to be released.

“We urge Zimbabwean authorities to drop the charges forthwith or to proceed to trial immediately if they feel there is a basis to do so. Delayed justice is denied justice” said Timothy Mtambo the Executive Director of the Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation, Malawi and Vice President of the SAHRDN.

The Zimbabwe7 were arrested and initially detained for participating at a civil society workshop in the Maldives and charged with the offence of subverting a constitutional government, a very serious offence that the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) has previously said is akin to treason in respect of which if convicted can lead to a prolonged period of imprisonment. The frequency of the use of the charges of subversion against HRDs and legitimate political opponents has reached alarming proportions in Zimbabwe.

The SAHRDN notes that Zimbabwe is a party to a number of international and regional human rights standards such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights (ACHPR) that guarantee and protect fundamental rights such as the right to freedom of movement, association, assembly and expression. These instruments also guarantee the right to a fair trial before an independent and impartial tribunal. The SAHRDN, therefore, urges the authorities in Zimbabwe to give appropriate attention to this matter and finalise the case of the Zimbabwe7.

For more information please contact Washington Katema at wkatema@southernafricadefenders.africa +27736202608 or Chimedza Charles at cchimedza@southernafricadefenders.africa +27781251062

CDD and SAHRDN visit 18 Mozambican election monitors imprisoned in Xai-Xai and calls for their immediate release:

The Mozambique’s Center for Democracy and Development (CDD) and the Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (the SAHRDN) have today called on Mozambican authorities to immediately release the 18 Mozambican election monitors imprisoned in Xai-Xai, Mozambique, for “illegally” monitoring the ballot counting in Chokwe District. The call was made following a prison visit that was conducted by CDD and the SAHRDN on 22 November to see the prisoners and assess the conditions under which they are being detained as human rights defenders (HRDs). This is the first such visit that the prisoners received from any civil society actors since their imprisonment 43 days ago.

“It is astonishing and a travesty of justice that more than 40 days had lapsed from the time of arrest to the time of our visit and yet no charge had been preferred against any of the detainees for any wrong doing” said Prof Adriano Nuvunga, the Executive Director for CDD Mozambique. “Our electoral laws require that any person facing any charges for violating electoral laws be charged and brought to court within 3 days of arrest. Failure to comply with such legal requirements or to charge the detainees of any charge qualify their arrests and detention as arbitrary and therefore wrongful” added Prof Nuvunga. 

CDD and the SAHRDN  commend the Mozambican authorities for granting CDD and the SAHRDN leave to visit 18 Nova Democracia (New Democracy-ND) party election monitors from the Gaza province who were arrested on October 15, 2019 (election day) in Mozambique. The 18 were initially held in Guija district, but were secretly transferred to Xai-Xai prison without the knowledge of their lawyer or their families.  Amongst the 18, there are three (3) females and six (6) students. 

Despite being in prison for 40 days, the 18 demonstrated exceptional resilience and were generally in good spirits. In an hour-long conversation with CDD and the SAHRDN, the prisoners flagged overcrowding in prison cells, dietary restrictions, and unsanitary ablutions amongst the main issues needing attention in terms of prison conditions. Xai-Xai prison has a carrying capacity of 70, but there are currently over 300 prisoners posing a clear and present danger to the health of all inmates. Six (6) of the monitors are ill and in need of medical attention. No such medical attention has been given or forthcoming to the inmates by any medical practitioners. 

 “Election monitors are human rights defenders. They play a critical role in advancing Africa’s ideals as per the AU Constitutive Act of an Africa that promotes and protect human and peoples’ rights, consolidates democratic institutions and culture, and ensures good governance and the rule of law even during electoral periods” said Washington Katema, the Regional Program Manager of the SAHRDN. “The prolonged detention of such HRDs without trial or effective judicial oversight violates their right to fair trial.” added Mr Katema.

CDD and the SAHRDN reminds the Mozambican authorities that citizen engagement in electoral process is an entitlement and a right that should be protected and not be criminalized. The prolonged detention of the HRDs violates a number of international human rights law instruments binding on Mozambique including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and more specifically the the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights (ACHPR) whose following provissions have been specifically violated and continue to be violated;

Article 13 of the ACHPR which provides in part that “every citizen shall have the right to participate freely in the government of his country, either directly or through freely chosen representatives in accordance with the provisions of the law”,

Article 6 of the ACHPR which provides that “every individual shall have the right to liberty and to the security of his person. No one may be deprived of his freedom except for reasons and conditions previously laid down by law. In particular, no one may be arbitrarily arrested or detained”, and

Article 7 of the ACHPR which provides that “every individual shall have the right to have his cause heard” which comprises “the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty by a competent court or tribunal.” 

CDD and the SAHRDN therefore reiterate their call for the detainees to be released forthwith and compensated for the wrongful detention. CDD and the SAHRDN also call on the authorities in Mozambique to use the lessons learnt from this case to take measures to carry out appropriate electoral reforms including electoral dispute resolution mechanisms.

For additional information about this case and CDD and the SAHRDN’s visit to the detainees in Xai-Xai please contact Mr. Washington Katema at wkatema@southernafricadefenders.africa or +27 73 620 2608  or Prof Adriano Nuvunga at nuvunga@cddmoz.org or +258 21 418 336 

SAHRDN files Urgent Request with the AU and UN Mechanisms for Intervention in the Case of Human Rights Defender, Tito Elia Magoti.

The SAHRDN in collaboration with several civil society organizations (CSOs) working to promote and defend human rights across the globe, including in Tanzania, made an urgent request for the AU and UN special mechanisms to intervene in the arrest and detention of human rights defender, Tito Elia Magoti. The SAHRDN and other civil society organisations were not only concerned that Tito’s arrest and detention is in retaliation for his legitimate human rights work but that the manner of his arrest, indicates a pattern by the Tanzanian State of disregarding due process procedures. The SAHRDN and other civil society organisations were further concerned that the charges against Tito, more specifically that of “money laundering” which automatically denies him the right to bail under Tanzanian law, poses an existential threat to all human rights defenders, journalists and civil society in Tanzania. Those charged under this law, regardless of the frivolousness of the allegations, can be indefinitely detained without trial.

Tito, a young lawyer and Program Officer with the Legal and Human Rights Center (LHRC), was reportedly abducted by four unidentified men on December 20, 2019, handcuffed and driven off in what seemed to be a civilian vehicle. LHRC is a Tanzanian based organization that works to promote, reinforce and safeguard human rights and good governance in the country. Members of LHRC and other human rights organizations frantically visited various police stations in search of Tito but were unable to locate him. Everything was pointing to an abduction or possible enforced disappearance. In the evening of December 20, 2019, the Dar es Salaam Zone Police Commander, SACP Lazaro Mambosasa, eventually released a press report indicating that he had not been abducted but was in police custody with several other arrested individuals. No mention was made of where he was being detained or what allegations he was facing. Police Commander Mambosasa’s statement was subsequently contradicted by the Regional Police Commander for Kinondoni region, where Mr. Magoti was arrested, alleging that he had no knowledge of the arrest.

Faced with this threat to a human rights defender, the SAHRDN coordinated with other civil society organisations to file an urgent appeal with a number of mechanisms at the AU and UN that deal with the rights of human rights defenders.