Human rights group Amnesty International has voiced outrage about yesterday’s arrests of Zimbabwe opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai and Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) workers and staff. Amnesty Zimbabwe country specialist Rowley Brucken says that Harare police must end what Amnesty calls “the brutal harassment, torture, and intimidation of opposition activists.”
“We’re very concerned about a number of different things. The first is that there are severe allegations of torture that have been committed in police stations because those who have been detained have not been allowed to have access to medical care or lawyers. We’re also very concerned that the police are acting as agents of the state to commit human rights abuses. And we’re very concerned then about the well-being of those in prison. And finally, we are also very concerned about the increasing disrespect for human rights in general and for the upholding of international law that the current government of Zimbabwe has committed,” he said.
Among at least 20 MDC party workers and members that Amnesty notes were detained Wednesday by police, Brucken names three, who were arrested at their Harare homes – MDC MP Paul Madzore, and Ian Makone and his wife Theresa, who, respectively, serve on the MDC’s National Executive Committee and represent the Mashonaland East Province. Brucken also says that the whereabouts of MDC Mashonaland East organizing secretary Pineal Denga and his wife are unknown, along with MDC President Tsvangirai, who also has not been heard from since his reported release from detention. Zimbabwe police deny having arrested Tsvangirai on Wednesday.
Brucken adds that Amnesty International is calling on leaders of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), meeting this week in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania to stand up to Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe in response to Wednesday’s arrests.
“Certainly Amnesty International has appealed to members of the Southern Africa Development Community to end their practice of quiet diplomacy and to very publicly join other nations around the world that have condemned the current repression in Zimbabwe. Whether or not there is a connection and whether or not the Mugabe government believes that it can continue to act with impunity, even while SADC nations are involved in discussing Zimbabwe, that might show that they have a certain sense of confidence in that what they’re doing is justified. But Amnesty International will continue its pressure on the Zimbabwe government and on nations in the region to encourage a respect for the rule of law and for the upholding of human rights protections for everybody in that country,” he said.