The ICJ today expressed its great concern at reports that the police in Zimbabwe have carried out what appears to be an unjustifiable raid against human rights defenders, Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP).
On 11 February 2013, police reportedly raided the offices of ZPP, a non-profit organization comprising of non-governmental organizations (NGO) and church-based organizations, and confiscated mobile phones, wind up radios, files with donor information, political violence reports and DVDs.
“The continuous attacks against NGOs by law enforcement agencies clearly shows that there are systematic assaults on human rights defenders which are closing the democratic space within which human rights defenders operate”, said Martin Masiga, Deputy Director of the ICJ Africa Regional Program. “It appears that the police are trying to discourage human rights defenders from engage with citizens of Zimbabwe to exchange information concerning their rights and freedoms, as the country heads for a referendum and election during the course of the current year”.
The police undertook the raid pursuant to a search warrant issued by the Superintendent of the C.I.D Law and Order Division of the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP).
The search warranted stated that there were reasonable grounds to believe that ZPP had committed offences in terms of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act, the Immigration Act, and the Customs and Excise Act.
On the same evening eight police officers were discovered by the security team that provides rapid response for the ZPP at the ZPP premises, after an alarm had been tripped.
The police officers demanded to gain access into the office of ZPP Director, Jestina Mukoko. However the office was locked and they could not enter. These officers did not have a search warrant.
The ICJ welcomes the statement of the Co-Minister of Home Affairs, the honourable Theresa Makone, which says that the Cabinet is concerned “over the overzealousness of some police officers”, and that the police “must follow the basic principle of policing” which is to investigate “to arrest rather than arresting to investigate”.
The ICJ urges the Zimbabwean government to ensure that it protects human rights defenders in accordance to United Nations Human Rights Defenders Declaration, endorsed by all the States including Zimbabwe.
The ICJ further urges the Zimbabwean government to stand by its commitments to the Zimbabwean Constitution, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which it is a state party. These instruments expressly guarantee the right to the freedom of opinion, expression and association.
Lastly, the ICJ further urges the police in Zimbabwe to conduct impartial investigations into allegations of violations of human rights, to hold accountable those responsible for human rights abuse and to protect human rights defenders and NGOs that work for the protection of human rights in Zimbabwe.
Martin Okumu-Masiga, Deputy Director of the ICJ Africa Regional Programme, t: +27110248268; e-mail: email@example.com