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Startseite Urgent Actions 2019 05 Seven activists arrested, charged with treason
UA 076/19
Zimbabwe
Abgeschlossen am 12. Juli 2019

Seven activists arrested, charged with treason

AI-Index: AFR 46/0450/2019

Seven activists, arrested on different dates, are facing charges of treason after they attended a training organised by the Center for Non-Violence Action and Strategies (CANVAS) in the Maldives. Five of the activists have already appeared in court and are remanded in custody until 6 June. The offence «subverting a constitutional government» carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison. These arrests are part of an ongoing crackdown on human rights defenders, activists and opposition members in the country and are an attempt by the government to stifle peaceful protest over the recently implemented austerity measures.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

The seven activists attended a training organised by the Center for Non-Violence Action and Strategies (CANVAS) in the Maldives from 15-19 May 2019. The focus of the workshop was civic engagement, advocacy and communications. Returning to Zimbabwe on different dates, George Makoni, Tatenda Mombeyarara, Gamuchirai Mukura, Nyasha Mpahlo were arrested on arrival at Harare Airport on 20 May. Farirai Gumbonzvanda was arrested on arrival the following day, while Stabile Dewa and Rita Nyamupinga were arrested on arrival at Harare Airport on 27 May. Rita, 61 years old, is on chronic medication and has since been hospitalised.

The crackdown on Zimbabwe’s civil society, human rights defenders and activists continues with 12 activists charged with treason since January 2019. On Wednesday 17 May, the government used the state-owned and controlled Herald newspaper to accuse civil society organizations of «plotting to unleash violent protest» in Zimbabwe, citing the meeting that the activists had attended.

Five of the activists appeared in court on 23 May and are remanded in custody until 6 June. They appeared in court for bail on 30 May and it was postponed to 31 May. On 31 May the Court postponed the hearing to 7 June. The other two activists, Stabile and Rita, appeared before court on 29 May and have been remanded in custody to 6 June. Police have confiscated their laptops and mobile phones to extract evidence.

The arrest of these activists is an attempt by the government to stifle peaceful protest by Zimbabweans who have been hard hit by the government’s austerity measures. The rights to freedom of association, peaceful assembly and expression have been under attack in the country since January, after fuel price hikes saw the cost of living skyrocket with basic commodities becoming too expensive for most people especially the economically and socially vulnerable sectors of the population. The economic meltdown and the failure of the austerity measures to improve the lives of Zimbabweans has created a tense atmosphere in the country.

On Tuesday 21 May the government announced a fuel price increase of 46%. This increase came four months after the last increase which resulted in nationwide protests over the deterioration of the country’s socio-economic conditions and led to a brutal crackdown by security forces. In an apparent attempt to instil fear, the government deployed both military, police and intelligence units in cities and residential areas. At least 16 people were killed, over 600 people arrested, and more than 300 people injured.

The government policies have driven people deeper into poverty, according to a statement released by the UN on 4 April stating that the austerity measures are hitting the poor. https://reliefweb.int/report/zimbabwe/zimbabwe-policies-hitting-poor-hardest-say-un-rights-experts

The government has also issued threats to the public over any planned protest. Most recently, on 27 May, the Minister of Home affairs responded to a statement made by the opposition party saying that government would crackdown on any protests. .

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