UN expert condemns persecution of ARTUZ leader

A United Nations (UN) expert has called on the government of Zimbabwe to drop charges against the leader of the Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ), Obert Masaruare. 

Masaruare has been facing various charges since 2019 in his quest of demanding better working conditions for teachers in Zimbabwe. 

Teachers are among many other civil servants who have been at loggerheads with their employer demanding, among other conditions, better remuneration pegged in USD in order to survive the current economic condition. 

UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Mary Lawlor, said she witnessed what appeared to be “a systematic targeting of human rights defenders from ARTUZ” who were working to promote the right to education and the right to an adequate standard of living for educators in rural areas of Zimbabwe. 

“Mr Obert Masaraure has long been targeted in reprisal for his peaceful work in defence of the labour rights of teachers, educators, and all those who seek to uphold the fundamental right to education in Zimbabwe,” Mr Obert Masaraure is the National President of the Amalgamated Rural Teacher’s Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ), a registered union that works in rural areas to defend the rights of educators and teachers,” Lawlor said.  

“He was first charged in 2019 with “subverting a constitutionally elected government and inciting public violence”. Since January 2022, Mr Masaraure has faced multiple arrests and charges, including participation in a protest, alleged murder, and public incitement to violence, while being released on strict bail conditions. After several postponements, he is due to stand trial on 29 May 2023 on charges related to national security, including public incitement to violence and obstruction of justice. A hearing on the murder charge is scheduled for 31 May 2023.” 

Lawlor expressed concern that such targeting may be an attempt to deter others from standing up and peacefully assembling for the right to education in the country.  

“Since I took office in 2020, I have heard numerous allegations of arbitrary arrests, excessive use of force and ill-treatment by police officers against human rights defenders working to protect labour rights, I am hoping to see the charges against Mr Obert Masaraure dropped and urge the Government of Zimbabwe to promote a safe and enabling environment for all human rights defenders,” she said.

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