Groups want gay abuses investigated

HARARE Rights groups are calling for a UN probe into the alleged torture and degrading treatment of gay activists by Zimbabwe
security agents.

In a letter to UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders Margaret Sekaggya, a coalition of civil society groups led by Human Rights Watch demanded immediate action by the world body to ensure human rights defenders are protected in Zimbabwe.

The letter, also copied to UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Manfred Nowak, and El Hadji Malick of the Working Group against Arbitrary Detention, comes in the wake of last months raid of the Harare offices of the Gays and Lesbians Association of Zimbabwe (GALZ) and the subsequent arrest of two activists.

We, the undersigned organizations, urge you to investigate the allegations that authorities in Zimbabwe acted in violation of the fundamental rights of GALZ and those arrested at its offices and that you raise your concerns with the Zimbabwean government, the coalition said.

GALZ members Ellen Chademana and Ignatius Muhambi were arrested on May 21 by police who stormed the organisations Harare offices claiming they were looking for dangerous drugs and pornographic material.

In addition to formally charging the GALZ employees with possessing drugs and pornographic material, the police had also charged the two

with undermining Mugabe by allegedly displaying a plaque in their office showing former San Francisco Mayor Willie Lewis Brown Jr denouncing the Presidents homophobia.

The police returned to the GALZ offices on May 23 and tried to force their way into the office but the guard did not have keys. They later went to the house of the acting GALZ director Chesterfield Samba on May 26 and confiscated his birth certificate as well as magazines, books and business cards.

We also request that you enter into a dialogue with other UN Special Procedures to investigate the allegations of torture and degrading treatment while the two individuals were held in custody, said the coalition which also includes ARC-International, International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, Just Associates (JASS) and Protection International.

Chademana and Mhambi were released on bail on May 27 and are due to appear in court on June 10. The court confiscated the detainees’ passports and they have to report to police headquarters twice a week.

Mugabe is known for his dislike for gay and lesbian people who he has described as worse than dogs and pigs and the Presidents supporters

and government agencies have fought to keep the country’s small homosexual community away from the public view most notably by barring them from participating at the Zimbabwe International Book Fair.

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