Open letter to President Muluzi

MAY I introduce myself: I am voluntarily working with Amnesty International in Austria. For some years I have been watching the political situation in Zimbabwe.


T

he purpose of this letter is to express my deep concern about the escalating human rights situation in Zimbabwe.


Supporters and officials of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) have been harassed, arbitrarily arrested, beaten and tortured by members of the Zimbabwe National Army, police and supporters of the ruling Zanu PF party.


On June 3 MDC activist Tichaona Kaguru died after he was severely beaten by members of the Zimbabwe National Army and the police. He stayed at the house of his uncle, MDC councillor for Mbare Sydney Mazaranhanga when police and army personnel raided the house. Both men were taken into an army truck and assaulted.


They were hit all over their bodies and heads with rubber sticks and whips and then thrown into a sewage dump and beaten again.


This is one of many cases of brutal attacks on the political opposition in Zimbabwe.


Furthermore, I am concerned about information that specific provisions of legislation breach regional and international human rights standards which guarantee the fundamental rights of Zimbabweans to freedom of expression, association and assembly.


Amnesty International’s research indicates that restrictive legislation has been introduced by the Zimbabwean government as a weapon to silence individuals or organisations who expose human rights violations.


Police have used the restrictive legislation to harass, intimidate, arrest and torture the independent media and civil society. Amani Trust, a leading Zimbabwean human rights NGO which works with victims of torture and politically-motivated rape, has been subjected to harassment and intimidation.


In August 2002 Dr Francis Lovemore, medical director with Amani Trust, was arrested. She was later released without charge.


The offices of the organisation were raided and searched by police. Amani Trust had to close its offices following the government’s decision to criminalise NGOs under the Private Voluntary Organisations Act.


In January 2003 Amani Trust staff received threats that their offices would be petrol-bombed.


I urge you, Mr President, as head of a neighbouring country to send a strong and clear message that the Zimbabwean authorities should not allow human rights to be violated with impunity.


Please use your influence on the government of Zimbabwe to drastically amend or repeal all restrictive legislation and promote and respect the rights of Zimbabweans to freedom of expression, association and assembly.


I call upon the government of Malawi to use its influential voice directly and as a member state of the Southern African Development Community and the African Union to publicly signal that the repression of fundamental rights in Zimbabwe is not tolerated.


Thank you for considering this problem.


Gerda Simon,

Austria.