Arresting Referendum in Zimbabwe

March 19, 2013


Zimbabwe voted Saturday on whether to adopt its first constitution. Until now, the country operated under a vastly revised document called the Lancaster House Agreement, the de-colonization plan between Rhodesia and the UK. Despite poor turn-out and general apathy for the process, poll monitors initially indicated the constitution would be adopted with a substantial “yes” vote and the Zimbabwe Election Commission just affirmed.

There were incidents of intimidation reported; however, as the day progressed, so did arrests. On Sunday, four officials in the MDC-T political party were arrested. Beatrice Mtetwa (A personal hero of mine-if you’ve ever met her, know of her work, or met any of the multitudes of people she defends in the battle for human rights and dignity, you understand why.) was also arrested for obstruction of justice when she arrived at the police station to serve as their attorney. The irony of arresting a woman fighting for justice for obstruction by those who consistently obstruct it is not lost on me. As of this writing, she is still detained by the police-in defiance of a judicial court order demanding her release. Beatrice and the others appeared in court this morning for a bail hearing and Beatrice will remain in jail until another hearing tomorrow at 11:15 a.m. Harare time.

Since last September, nearly every single civil society organization of note in Zimbabwe working on election/democracy/human rights issues has either had their offices raided, or leadership arrested or both. This concerted effort to intimidate, harass and threaten mobilization of civil society and human rights defenders is an attempt to prevent education and outreach efforts prior to this referendum vote as well as anticipated presidential and parliamentary elections later this year.

Stand with Amnesty as we stand in solidarity with human rights defenders in Zimbabwe. Tell the police to stop their harassment and abuse. If you want to take action directly on behalf of Beatrice, you can go here.