ZEF Condemns Arrests and Torture of Activists

Pretoria - The Zimbabwe Exiles Forum (ZEF) today unreservedly condemned the torture of human rights and political activists arrested in Zimbabwe in recent days.

The group issued a statement following yesterdays solidarity march at the Zimbabwean Consulate in Johannesburg, which was organized by social movements in South Africa to press for the release of former MDC MP Munyaradzi Gwisai, former student leader and activist Hopewell Gumbo and 44 others. Gwisai and others were arrested on the 19th of February as they gathered at a private meeting organized by the International Socialist Organization to discuss recent uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt. Those arrested have been charged with treason, while 9 of them have been tortured in custody.

ZEF and LHR note with alarm that these arrests come at a time when politically motivated violence and selective application of the law have increased under Zimbabwes Inclusive Government. As this statement is issued, an MDC Member of Parliament and lawyer Douglas Mwonzora is languishing in prison following his arrest on what civil society in Zimbabwe believes are trumped up charges. Mwonzora was arrested with 23 others on allegations of public violence. MDC 99 President who was also arrested on Friday and has reportedly been tortured with electrical shocks and severely assaulted is still in custody.

ZEF deplores in the strongest of terms the continued use of torture in Zimbabwe, and urges the country to reform laws that impede freedoms of assembly and expression during the tenure of the Inclusive Government. ZEF also encourages the Inclusive Government to ratify regional and international protocols outlawing torture. The organization also calls upon South Africans and other neighbours to continue to support Zimbabweans in their struggle to bring a free and just society.

ZEF Executive Director, Gabriel Shumba criticised the continued disrespect of court orders following the refusal by prison authorities to take those who have been tortured to hospital for treatment.

Adding to this concern, Mr Shumba said: It is highly deplorable that the state has also used draconian legislation such as s121 of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act and Sec 21 of the Criminal Law Codification Act to suspend the bail orders given in favour of those in custody. Since widespread human rights abuses continue under the Inclusive Government, it stands to reason that the Facilitators in the Implementation of the Global Political Agreement need to step up their act and ensure optimum conditions for free and fair elections.

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