International Organizations Call for End to Harassment of Human Rights Defenders in Zimbabwe
Joint protest issued by Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, Amnesty International USA, Freedom House, Human Rights Watch, TransAfrica Forum, Human Rights First, National Endowment for Democracy, World Movement for Democracy, Physicians for Human Rights, Institute for Policy Studies, Africa Action, Global Rights, Calling All Crows, Dispatch and State Radio, Schooner Fund, Just Associates and Elias Fund
WASHINGTON (October 5, 2011) -- A group of seventeen leading non-governmental organizations from around the world today issued a joint protest to the government of Zimbabwe about the imprisonment and intimidation of two prominent human rights defenders in the African country.
The organizations comprise Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, Amnesty International USA, Freedom House, Human Rights Watch, TransAfrica Forum, Human Rights First, National Endowment for Democracy, Physicians for Human Rights, Institute for Policy Studies, Africa Action, Global Rights, Calling All Crows, Dispatch and State Radio, Schooner Fund, Just Associates and Elias Fund.
In a public letter to Patrick Chinamasa, Zimbabwe’s Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs, the group stated that they are “greatly distressed” about the prolonged incarceration of Jenni Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu, activist leaders of Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA).
On September 21, members of WOZA gathered for a peaceful demonstration, commemorating the International Day of Peace, when they were interrupted by riot police who beat the women with batons. Williams and Mahlangu were subsequently arrested on spurious charges of kidnapping and theft, and denied bail. The activists were finally released on bail on October 4, after 13 days of imprisonment.
The letter urges the government to guarantee the safety of Williams and Mahlangu while in custody and to grant them a speedy and fair trial. It further calls for the protection of all human rights defenders in Zimbabwe, who continue to press the government to adhere to international human rights standards, provide access to basic services, and improve living conditions.
The arrests come on the eve of the United Nation’s review of Zimbabwe’s human rights record, which will occur on October 10, 2011, as part of the Universal Periodic Review.
About Women of Zimbabwe Arise
WOZA is a grassroots movement of over 70,000 Zimbabweans, formed in 2003 as a women’s civic movement. Its goals are to provide women with a united voice to speak out on issues affecting their lives; empower female community leadership to press for solutions to the current political and economic crisis; encourage women to stand up for their rights and freedoms; advocate for issues affecting women and their families. Over 3,000 WOZA members have spent time in police custody and often suffer brutal beatings for peaceful assembly and for raising their voices in defense of their human rights and fundamental freedoms. WOZA received the 2009 RFK Human Rights Award in 2009.
About the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice & Human Rights
The Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice & Human Rights was founded in 1968 by Robert Kennedy's family and friends as a living memorial to carry forward his vision of a more just and peaceful world. Today, the RFK Center for Justice and Human Rights exemplifies Robert Kennedy’s belief that all individuals have the power and responsibility to make a difference, and that individuals working collectively can transform the world. The RFK CENTER’s core programs focus on the power of the individual, working through alliances and organizations, to generate change. RFK PARTNERS FOR HUMAN RIGHTS bolsters the efficacy of human rights defenders through sustained, strategic partnerships, extending their reach to legislators, diplomats, international institutions, and corporations. RFK SPEAK TRUTH TO POWER educates students and the public about human rights issues and provides the tools for creating change in their communities. RFK COMPASS convenes the financial community to advance a discussion of the connections among investment performance, fiduciary duty, and public interest issues to optimize risk-adjusted rates of returns and address current and future global challenges.