GENEVA — On Wednesday, February 22, Human Rights Foundation (HRF) discussed the arbitrary detention of Zimbabwean activist Evan Mawarire in a set of high-level meetings with representatives from the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (UNWGAD), and the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders. HRF also submitted an individual complaint to UNWGAD requesting that they initiate a formal investigation into Mawarire’s arrest and harsh pre-trial detention measures in Zimbabwe.
“Evan Mawarire is one of the most prominent figures of Zimbabwe’s beleaguered civil society. He has, at great personal risk, challenged Robert Mugabe’s authoritarian regime through nonviolent resistance,” said Thor Halvorssen, president of HRF. “We have requested that the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention issue an opinion declaring Mawarire’s arbitrary detention and ongoing pre-trial detention measures are in violation of international law,” said Halvorssen.
Mawarire was arrested on February 1 for his role in organizing a general strike in 2016, when his social movement, #ThisFlag, asked Zimbabweans to stay home instead of going to work. The protest opposed government corruption and extortion, police brutality, and the country’s policies which have led to a catastrophic economic situation. Mawarire’s protest strike was so influential that offices, schools, and financial institutions closed for the day.
On February 17, Mawarire appeared in court and was notified that his trial was postponed to March 16. He remains subject to the restrictions imposed by the Harare Court on February 8—a bond, the surrender of his passport, and the obligation to report twice a week to the police.
“In our submission to the UNWGAD in Geneva last week, HRF argued that Mr. Mawarire’s deprivation of liberty and non-custodial, pre-trial measures are the result of his exercise of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, and the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association,” said Roberto González, international legal associate at HRF. “We urge the UNWGAD to declare that, with these actions, Zimbabwe has failed to observe its international obligations under Articles 19, 21, and 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,” said González.
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 dictatorial regime.