HomeNewsRights defenders engage UN, AU over student activist’s detention

Rights defenders engage UN, AU over student activist’s detention

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BY MOSES MATENGA/ARNOLD FANDISO

CIVIC society organisations (CSOs) have pleaded with the United Nations (UN) to rein in President Emmerson Mnangagwa to stop human rights abuses and end the prolonged detention of student activist Alan Moyo, who has spent over 70 days, in remand prison.

The Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network and the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum petitioned the UN and the African Union (AU) Special Rapporteurs to intervene in the prolonged pre-trial detention of Moyo, who has been repeatedly denied bail by the courts.

Moyo, the organisations said, was arrested for demanding accountability from the government in the provision of safety nets for the vulnerable in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic-induced lockdown that saw many losing their sources of income.

“Following the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, the Zimbabwean government introduced a number of regulations without providing social safety nets for the country’s poor and most vulnerable,” the NGOs said in their letter to the UN and AU.

“Rising levels of hunger, subsequent abuse and partisan distribution of government sourced food assistance intended to aid the Zimbabwe poor and vulnerable in increased number of people living in object poverty and significantly decreased their standard of living. Alan Moyo participated in the one man protest where he demanded the government be held accountable and ensure the safety of the country’s poor and vulnerable.”

Moyo was arrested in December last year after visiting fellow students detained at the Harare Central Police Station for demanding government accountability.

He was charged with staging a demonstration against the failures of the Zimbabwean government.

“He has approached the courts seeking bail and has been denied bail in several attempts. This is despite that he poses no risk, and pre-trial bail is a right under the Zimbabwean Constitution,” the rights defenders said.

The organisations said attacks on human rights defenders were on the rise in Zimbabwe and demanded an end to “judicial harassment, arbitrary detention and inhumane treatment of Moyo and other human rights defenders”.

“Cases of judicial persecution of human rights defenders and legitimate political opponents by authorities are increasing in Zimbabwe. The accused are charged with flimsy criminal charges, denied bail, and detained for long periods of time. The arrests and detention of Jacob Mafume (Harare mayor), Hopewell Chin’ono (journalist), Job Sikhala, Joanah Mamombe and Cecilia Chimbiri (opposition activists) are a few examples of the misuse of the Zimbabwe legal system since 2020.”

The organisations pleaded with the UN and the AU to probe the misuse of the justice system to attack critics by the Mnangagwa administration.

“Launch an independent investigation into the continued misuse of the criminal justice system, namely the consistent denial of bail to human rights defenders and legitimate opposition political members, especially in the magistrate courts.”

“… ensure respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and international human rights instruments ratified by Zimbabwe.”

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