Opposition activists attacked and harassed in Zimbabwe

Paris, 23 october 2003 - The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) strongly condemns the serious wave of repression in Zimbabwe, which predominantly affects opposition activists and civil society actors. Such a pattern of state repression shows the growing authoritarianism of the Mugabe regime.
On 18 October, two employees and an activist of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), the main Zimbabwean opposition party, were shot in the MDC head office in Harare by a person identified as a lawyer. One of the wounded, Mr Wellington Kanyanga, is said to be in a critical condition, and the other two have been admitted at the hospital for injuries in the arms and legs. Whilst the injured are under police guard, the alleged perpetrator of these acts has not been interrogated by the police.

Moreover, two MDC activists are going to stand trial next week for criticizing the President of Zimbabwe, Mr Robert Mugabe. Indeed, on 13 October, Mr Paul Themba Nyathi, the MDC Secretary for Information and Publicity was informed by the police that he was going to stand trial on 29 October for attempting to remove a constitutionally elected President Mugabe, under the provisions of the Public Order and Security Act (the POSA, which was adopted in 2002). However, when he was arrested on April 2003 together with many other MDC activists following a stay-away, which was organised on 18 and 19 March 2003, he was released without charges.

On June 2003, Morgan Tsvangirai, the MDC President, was arrested in his house after calling for a weeklong strike. He was charged with treason for making statements calling for the removal of President Mugabe during protest campaigns in May 2003. His trial is due to start on 27 October, two days before Mr Themba Nyathi's trial.

Moreover, these attacks have not only targeted opposition representatives, but also human rights defenders and trade unionists (see Urgent appeal of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders of 23 October 2003).

The FIDH considers these acts to constitute serious violations of freedoms of expression, of association and of the right to take part in the conduct of public affairs, guaranteed in particular by Article 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political rights and Article 13 of the African Charter on Human and People's Rights. Both have been ratified by Zimbabwe.

The FIDH urges the Zimbabwean authorities to ensure a fair and impartial trial of the MDC activists, in accordance with national and international human rights instruments ratified by Zimbabwe, and, since the charges against them are arbitrary, to acquit them of all the charges. The FIDH will be present for the hearing via Mr. Bidi, National Director of ZimRights, the FIDH member organisation in Zimbabwe.

Moreover, the FIDH urges them to shed light on the attack against the MDC members and file the appropriate charges against the perpetrators, in accordance with the relevant national and international provisions on human rights, and to ensure the security of persons, as stated in Article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

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