Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, A/HRC/16/44/Add.1, 28 February 2011: Zimbabwe
Letter of allegations
2517. On 16 June 2010, the Special Rapporteur, together with the the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment sent a joint allegation letter regarding the situation of Mr. Chesterfield Samba, Ms. Ellen Chademana and Mr. Ignatius Muhamba, respectively Director and employees of Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ). GALZ is an association advocating for social tolerance for sexual minorities and the repeal of homophobic legislation in Zimbabwe, and is officially authorized to operate in Zimbabwe.
2518. According to the information received, on 21 May 2010, police officers from the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) raided GALZ offices in Milton Park, Harare, reportedly searching for dangerous narcotics and pornographic material. The police had a warrant to search for dangerous drugs and pornographic material citing contravention of Section 157 (1) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act Chapter 9:23 and Section 32 (1) of the Censorship and Entertainment Control Act Chapter 10:04.
2519. It was alleged that the police confiscated computers, records and banners and reportedly seized pornographic material as evidence for the case. They arrested Ms. Chademana and Mr. Muhamba and transferred them to the Harare Central Police Station.
2520. On 23 May 2010, the police allegedly returned to GALZ offices claiming that they were notified that the office had been raided. They requested entry into the office, but the guard did not have the keys. They left a message that they were to return on Monday 24 May 2010 to carry out another search.
2521. On 24 May 2010, the police took Ms. Chademana and Mr. Muhamba from Harare Central Police Station to GALZ offices for a further search, without notifying their lawyers. Later the same day, both employees were reportedly formally charged of “possessing pornographic material” and “undermining the office of the President” but the police failed to bring them before the court. On 25 May 2010, Ms. Chademana and Mr. Muhamba reportedly appeared before the court.
2522. On 26 May 2010, five police officers searched the house of Mr. Samba during his absence. They allegedly seized magazines, books, Mr. Samba’s birth certificate and business cards. They asked his sister in law and niece, who were present at the time of the search, of Mr. Samba’ whereabouts and when he would return to town.
2523. On 27 May 2010, Ms. Chademana and Mr. Muhamba were reportedly released on bail. It is alleged that they are however required to report to the police twice a week and to stay in Harare until the next hearing, which is expected to be held on 10 June 2010. It is further alleged that GALZ staff members have been asked to report to the police to appear as witnesses the case against their colleagues Ms. Chademana and Mr. Muhamba.
2524. Furthermore, it was reported that Ms. Chademana and Mr. Muhamba were subjected to ill-treatment during their detention. They reported that during their detention the police used empty soft drinks bottles to assault them on their knees and forced them to ‘sit’ in a position without a chair or any other tool for a prolonged period. They were allegedly subjected to assaults all over their bodies.
2525. Concern was expressed that the arrests of Ms. Chademana and Mr. Muhamba and the searches of GALZ’premises and Mr. Samba’s house might be directly related to the peaceful activities of Mr. Samba, Ms. Chademana and Mr. Muhamba in the defense of human rights. Further concern is expressed for the safety of all staff members of GALZ.
2549. The Special Rapporteur wishes to express her regret that the Government of Zimbabwe has not responded to any of her communications sent during the reporting period as well as a to 37 of the 47 communications sent by the mandate since 2004. She considers response to her communications an important part of cooperation by Governments. She urges the Government to respond to concerns raised by her and provide detailed information regarding investigations undertaken, prosecutions as well as protective measures taken.
2550. The Special Rapporteur remains deeply concerned about continuous reports of threats and acts of harassment against human rights defenders in Zimbabwe, including restrictions to the exercise of the right of freedom of opinion and expression. She reiterates her hope that the Government will respond favorably to her follow-up request of 21 January 2010 to visit the country. (NB: previous requests are dated 1 July 2002, 20 January 2004 and 5 November 2008)
Link to full text of the report: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/defenders/docs/A.HRC.16.44.Add.1_EFSonly.pdf