GENEVA-based Human Rights Foundation (HRF) last week submitted a request to the United Nations (UN) for an investigation into the arrest and detention of cleric and #ThisFlag movement founder, Evan Mawarire on his return to Zimbabwe last month.
BY BLESSED MHLANGA
The request was submitted during high-level meetings with representatives from the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (UNWGAD), and the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders.
“Evan Mawarire is one of the most prominent figures of Zimbabwe’s beleaguered civil society. He has, at great personal risk, challenged (President) Robert Mugabe’s authoritarian regime through non-violent resistance. We have requested that the UNWGAD issue an opinion declaring Mawarire’s arbitrary detention measures are in violation of international law,” HRF president, Thor Halvorssen said.
Mawarire was arrested at Harare International Airport on February 1, as he returned to the country after spending several months in self-imposed exile in the United States.
He was released on bail after spending nine days in remand prison and is being charged with abusing the Zimbabwean flag.
Mawarire, who is due to appear in court on March 16, remains subject to the restrictions imposed by the court, which include surrendering his passport and reporting twice a week to the police.
Roberto González, international legal associate at HRF, said the bail conditions were meant to stifle freedom of expression.
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“In our submission to the UNWGAD in Geneva last week, HRF argued that Mawarire’s deprivation of liberty and non-custodial, pre-trial measures are the result of his exercise of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, and the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association,” he said.
“We urge the UNWGAD to declare that, with these actions, Zimbabwe has failed to observe its international obligations under Articles 19, 21, and 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”
Mawarire is expected to speak at the 2017 HRF-organised Oslo Freedom Forum, which is pencilled May this year.