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Lobby group decries abuse of criminal justice system

by Staff reporter
16 Jan 2021 at 07:21hrs | Views
THE Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum (The Forum) has expressed concern over what they called an apparent trend of manipulation of the criminal justice system to punish dissent through prolonged and undue pre-trial incarceration.

The rights group also bemoaned the selective targeting of political opposition leaders and human rights defenders.

This came after journalist Hopewell Chin'ono, MDC Alliance vice-chairperson Job Sikhala, and MDC Alliance party spokesperson Fadzayi Mahere were arrested last week and charged for allegedly communicating falsehoods.

They are being charged under section 31(a)(iii) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act.

In a statement yesterday, the Forum said political opposition leaders and human rights defenders are being arrested on frivolous charges as the State has weaponised the criminal justice system to intimidate and threaten perceived voices of dissent.

"The collective incidents of arrests related to political opponents, human rights defenders and other opposition figures on frivolous and vexatious charges are not isolated to these latest arrests," read part of the statement.

"In November 2020, police officers arrested Jacob Mafume on charges of criminal abuse of office, in addition to subsequent charges of allegedly interfering with a key witness."

Many activists have been arrested for speaking against the government, in September 2020, Takudzwa Ngadziore was arrested on charges of participating in a public gathering with intent to promote public violence, Youngerson Matete, Prince Gora and Allan Moyo were arrested on similar charges.

"In all these cases, the wrath and retribution of the government is clearly evidenced by the adoption of pre-trial incarceration procedures as a punitive measure.

"A case in point is that of student activist, Allan Moyo, who has been remanded in prison for the past thirty-seven days without a trial."

"It appears that the government has become fixated with punishing dissenting voices in the country through prolonged pre-trial incarcerations," the lobby group said.

The Forum said these arrests are seemingly meant to intimidate opposition figures from speaking out and calling for the government to be accountable to its people while government continues to default on its obligations in terms of the Constitution and in terms of international law.

"In terms of sections 58, 59, 60 and 61 the Constitution of Zimbabwe, citizens are entitled and well within their rights to speak out and complain when their freedoms have been infringed upon," the Forum added.

Source - newsday