Violations of UN Resolutions on Guaranteeing the Security of Human Rights Defenders in Zimbabwe

During the course of the past week, Zimbabwean authorities have arrested seven frontline human rights defenders and charged them with plotting to overthrow the government for attending a non-violence training workshop in the Maldives. The detained activists work with small grassroots civil society organisations in Zimbabwe.

The detained seven activists are Tatenda Mombeyarara who works at Citizens Manifesto, George Makoni who works with the Centre for Community Development in Zimbabwe, Nyasha Mpahlo who works with Transparency International Zimbabwe, Gamucharai Mukura who works with Community Tolerance, Reconciliation and Development, Farirai Gumbonzvanda a volunteer with Rosaria Memorial Trust, Rita Nyamupinga and Sithabile Dewa. Three of the detained activists are women.

Over the years, the government resorted to arresting high profile and prominent justice defenders with the aim of instilling fear and intimidating activists working on promoting and defending human rights in Zimbabwe. In this particular case, the government has changed tactics, it has decided to arrest grassroots frontline human rights defenders who are less prominent nationally. This strategy is aimed at intimidating grassroots justice defenders working in under-resourced communities with minimal resources to stop their work altogether. It is often difficult for grassroots justice defenders to seek legal representation and to have their cases amplified nationally and internationally. The opposite is true for prominent and high profile national justice defenders, they have easy access to legal representation and once they are arrested national and international media covers their cases.

As a frontline justice defender working with numerous volunteers at Centre Stage Media Arts Foundation (CSMA), I am worried about the emerging trend and arrest of grassroots justice defenders. The arrests and detentions have left us with a feeling of uneasiness and we now constantly look over our shoulders as we carry out our work.

This is even more worrying considering that the United Nations (UN) Ministerial High Level Political Forum (HLPF) aimed at taking stock in the implementation of SDG16 and making concrete commitments to demonstrate success by the end of the next four year cycle in 2023 is taking place in July 2019. Considering that three of the seven activists currently detained are women, the Zimbabwe government is in violation of standing UN resolutions on protecting the safety and security of women justice defenders and activists. State actions in this regard are in conflict with the 2013 UN Resolution on Women Human Rights Defenders.

For more details please visit:

  1. Human Rights Defenders Charged with Plotting to Overthrow Mnangagwa’s Govt as Authorities Target More Citizens | ZLHR
  2. 4 activists arrested at airport | The Chronicle
  3. Activist Rita Nyamupinga Arrested On Arrival At RG Mugabe Airport | ZimEye

Photographs / Images

Zim%20Justice%20Defenders%20at%20Court_PhotoCredit%20_TheChronicle

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@paulsixpence this is awful to hear and sadly a trend that is growing across our community. Do you know if anyone has reported these arrests to groups who provide direct legal support and funds for justice and human rights defenders under attack? You could suggest that they reach out to Frontline defenders Emergency Contact | Front Line Defenders or to the American Bar Association’s Justice Defenders Program. I am also happy to make introductions to contacts within these organisations if that is helpful - but their crisis lines are often the fastest way to get a response in an emergency such as this.

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We are also happy to draw attention to what has happened to Tatenda Mombeyarara, George Makoni, Nyasha Mpahlo, Gamucharai Mukura, Farirai Gumbonzvanda, Rita Nyamupinga and Sithabile Dewa. We can share what you have written on the Justice For All website and though our social media channels if that would be helpful. And can look to highlight this trend during HLPF events in New York. We are in solidarity with you all and are hoping for a fast release!

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Many thanks for the solidarity. From the information I have on hand is that the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights is providing legal support. Many thanks for also sharing information on international partners who provide support to justice defenders under attack. If possible, please make the introductions and i will share these widely with grassroots human rights groups in Zimbabwe.

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@staceycram please share the plight of the detained activists on the Justice For All website through what I have written and shared on this platform. If possible, let us work on amplifying the plight of grassroots justice defenders in Zimbabwe at the HLPF interms of the state failing to guarantee their security and actively persecuting them for carrying out their work. On Wednesday 22 May 2019, I was detained overnight without charge at the West Commonage Police station in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe for simply trying offer legal advice to a client in pre-trial detention at the police station. The allegation by the police was that I was ‘interfering’ with their duties. This is not the first time that this happened to me. As a justice defender working with marginalised communities in under-resourced communities it becomes difficult to seek remedial action nor legal recourse because of limited resources. This abuse by the state continues and it certainly slows down our work and the communities that we serve also lose faith in the use of the law for self-emancipation and empowerment when they do witness cases like the one I have just highlighted, were a justice advocate is harassed & detained without recourse.

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Thank you for sharing this update, @paulsixpence. It is frustrating to hear but important to know. And you make a good point about the increased risk faced by grassroots justice defenders versus national or international justice defenders.

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I am offering Legal Libraries containing ZIMBABWE Legislation and Court Judgments updated to the 1st JUNE 2019 soon available "On-line " .I shall be visiting Washington and and New York on the 8-11th JULY , and keen to make contact with the team responsible for looking after our people here .The Lawyers for Human Rights and the Human Tights Forum are already subscribers to my OptimaLegal programs .Looking forward to engaging with you. Advocate Jeremy Lewis

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@JeremyLewis many thanks for your communication. Your project, Legal Libraries, is a very important initiative. It is a challenge for lawyers & human rights advocates to access court judgements in Zimbabwe. The online portal will be very useful. Further, I still remember when I was in grad school in Europe, I had huge challenges in accessing legislation and judgements from Zimbabwe. Unfortunately, I will not be able to meet you next month in either New York or Washington, because I am based in Zimbabwe. Nevertheless, I am available and willing to assist in any way possible to make your project a success.

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It is with great joy that I announce to the community that, the 7 human rights defenders that have been in detention for the last 16 days have been finally granted bail by the High Court. We now await for their trial and acquittal.

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Thank you,Paul, for your response .

I can meet you in Harare if you would give me your contact details ?

I leave for the USA next month .

Regards,

Jeremy Lewis

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