We, the undersigned students, staff, affiliates and alumni of the University of Oxford, condemn the violent suppression of political expression and peaceful protest in Zimbabwe, the arrests of citizens engaging in safe and peaceful protest and the abduction, harassment and torture of Zimbabweans.
We call on the Government of Zimbabwe, the Zimbabwe Republic Police, Zimbabwe Defence Forces and the security services to end the de facto state of emergency that is restricting movement in the urban centres of Zimbabwe. It is clear that this action is designed primarily to suppress criticism of the government rather than to address Covid-19.
We are concerned about the growing number of people who have been arrested or abducted for criticising the government. This includes journalist, Hopewell Chin’ono, and opposition political leader, Jacob Ngarivhume, who are still in custody after being arrested for calling for peaceful protests against corruption on social media and denied bail. Chin’ono had been instrumental in exposing corruption relating to the procurement of Covid-19 supplies.
We are alarmed at the arrests on 31 July of many Zimbabweans, including award-winning novelist Tsitsi Dangarembga, several opposition political leaders including spokesperson, Fadzayi Mahere, disability rights activists such as Henry Chivhanga, as well as many more ordinary citizens for doing nothing more than stepping onto the street holding the national flag or placards, peacefully and in small, socially distanced demonstrations.
This is in flagrant violation of section 59 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, which guarantees the right to demonstrate peacefully, and of Article 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Zimbabwe is a party.
While some of these people have been released on bail, others are still in custody and all are facing criminal charges simply for exercising their constitutional rights.
These arrests follow the spate of recent arrests of teachers, nurses, trade unionists, students, human rights lawyers, constitutionalism activists and others, on charges that arise from nothing more than demanding decent work conditions and publicly speaking out against corruption.
The arrests and detentions are happening at a time when Covid-19 cases are on the rise in Zimbabwe and these actions expose those detained to a high risk of contracting the disease in detention.
We demand that all political prisoners are released immediately and the baseless charges against them are dropped.
We are particularly alarmed at the abductions and torture of Zimbabweans, most recently Tawanda Muchehiwa, who was abducted by state agents in collaboration with the Zimbabwe Republic Police during the 31 July protests and tortured, following several similar instances recently. We strongly condemn these practices and call for immediate investigations and prosecution of the perpetrators.
We call on the Southern African Development Community and the African Union to discharge their responsibilities to issue statements condemning the arrests, abductions and harassment of citizens and activists in Zimbabwe and to take action against Zimbabwe.
We call on the United Nations and its special mechanisms to actively monitor the situation in Zimbabwe, condemn human rights violations and take appropriate action against the Government of Zimbabwe.
We call on the international community as a whole – governments, civil society and the people of the world – to stand in solidarity with the people of Zimbabwe and to speak out against the violations of human rights and suppression of democracy in Zimbabwe.