Govt ordered to prosecute police officers who brutalised WOZA members

The African Commission for Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR) has ordered the Zimbabwean government to prosecute state security officials who arrested and tortured members of Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) during their public demonstrations.

The judgement comes after WOZA represented by the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) approached the ACHPR seeking redress arguing that their rights were violated during their numerous protests, arbitrary arrests, torture and vindictive prosecution.

This is after they had approached the Constitutional Court in Zimbabwe which upheld their rights to peaceful protests but the order was ignored by state security organs forcing WOZA to approach the Commission on 13 April 2013.

WOZA states during a 10-year period between 2003 and 2013, 10000 of its members were arrested and 15 trials were conducted before the courts and there were no convictions.

“The complaint was based on the violation and restriction of the Victims’ rights to conduct peaceful protests and demonstrations in different parts of Bulawayo and Harare over a ten-year period (from 2003 – 2013) by the government of Zimbabwe (The State),” read the judgement.

“The Victims stated that they had been subjected to numerous arrests and detentions for being in contravention with sections of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform Act).”

WOZA wanted the State to be interdicted from interfering with the Victims’ rights to engage in peace protests and public demonstrations and that the State reforms its laws that are not in line with the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (the Charter) and international laws, particularly those that restricted the rights to engage in peace protests and public demonstrations.

The complainants also wanted the Commission to recommend to the State proactive measures to ensure the effective implementation of all domestic laws, policies practices for the protection and facilitation of the right to engage in peaceful protest and public demonstration.

In its ruling the Commission found the government to be in breach of its duty to protect the rights of citizens in its failure to protect WOZA members against non-discrimination as per Article 2 of the Charter.

The Commission also urged the government “to promptly and independently investigate, prosecute and punish all State actors responsible for violations of Articles 1, 2, 3(2), 6, 9(2), 10 (1), and 11 of the African Charter and provide redress for prejudices suffered by the victims.”

The government was also urged  “to implement all domestic laws, policies and practices as well as international and regional standards, for the protection and facilitation of the right to engage in peaceful protest and public demonstration.”

Government was also ordered to “carry out human rights trainings to police and public officials”.

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