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