NEW YORK — Human Rights Foundation (HRF) condemns the arbitrary arrest of human rights activist and civil society leader Evan Mawarire in Zimbabwe. According to newssources, Mawarire was detained at Harare International Airport after disembarking from an international flight. His attorney, Harrison Nkomo, has stated that it is likely that Mawarire will be charged with “trying to overthrow a constitutionally elected government” for his role in last year’s peaceful protests against police brutality and the economic crisis in Zimbabwe.
“Today’s arbitrary arrest of Evan Mawarire is one incident in a pattern of repression faced by civil society leaders under authoritarian governments like Zimbabwe’s,” said HRF president Thor Halvorssen. “This arrest exposes President Robert Mugabe’s dictatorial policy of zero tolerance for even the most basic and peaceful acts of dissent. Mawarire’s alleged ‘seditious’ act was calling for Zimbabweans to skip a day of work so they could peacefully convey their disapproval to the government. He should be released immediately and all charges against him should be dropped,” he added.
Last year, Mawarire’s #ThisFlag movement asked Zimbabweans to stay home instead of going to work, which caused the shutdowns of offices, schools, and banks. The movement protested against government corruption and extortion, police brutality, and the country’s dire economic situation. The shutdown paralyzed cities in Zimbabwe as officials struggled to end the protests. Soon after, Mawarire was arrested and charged with “inciting public disorder,” but the prosecution then added the more severe charge of subversion on the day of his trial without notifying his legal counsel. During the trial, a magistrate judge ruled it unconstitutional for the prosecution to bring new charges in court and acquitted Mawarire of all charges. However, because the acquittal rested upona procedural matter, Mawarire was uncertain whether he could be arrested on the same incitement and subversion charges in the future.
Mawarire is confirmed to speak at the upcoming 2017 Oslo Freedom Forum, organized by HRF and taking place May 22-24.
Human Rights Foundation (HRF) is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that promotes and protects human rights globally, with a focus on closed societies.
TAKE ACTION and CONTACT the Zimbabwean officials listed below to:
· Express to them the need for President Mugabe to release Evan Mawarire; and
· Stress Evan Mawarire’s right to peacefully criticize Zimbabwe’s decades-old regime.