We, the following organisations and platforms, condemn the continued harassment of Obert Masaraure by presumed State agents. Mr Masaraure, the President of the Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ), has been subjected to abduction, torture, and arrest in the past, merely for exercising his rights under the Constitution to legitimate protest. In addition, his family have been intimidated and his children have witnessed violence. This latest incident, the abduction and intimidation of Mr Masaraure’s wife, has involved a serious crime in Zimbabwean law, and we demand a prompt investigation, the arrest and prosecution of the perpetrators.
This incident gives the lie to the government’s assertion that the recent report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association is biased and based on an insufficient analysis. However, this recent attack on the Masaraure family, which can only be predicated on disapproval of Mr Masaraure’s role as a trade unionist and human rights defender, merely illustrates a central issue raised by the Special Rapporteur in point 40 of his report:
The Special Rapporteur is aware that exercising the right to freedom of peaceful assembly in the current polarized environment is not only challenging but entails serious risks, such as threats, harassment, physical abuse and torture, disproportionate and excessive use of force, illegal dispersals and arbitrary arrests, detentions and even disappearances.
We point out that the continuous response of the government to protest and demonstration, legitimate rights under Constitution, are threats and the promise of a coercive response. The government will not restore political trust by the citizens through coercion, but will do so through rigid adherence to the Constitution, non-partisan application of the laws of the country, and the clear demonstration that it seeks to protect the rights of the citizens against unlawful attack.
Source: Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum (HRForum); National Transitional Justice Working Group Zimbabwe; Citizens’ Manifesto; Platform for Concerned Citizens