- At least 14 activists of Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) have had their bail revoked by a court before ordering their remand in custody at Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison and Harare Central Remand Prison until 6 June.
Led by the National Coordinator of WOZA, Jenni Williams, the 12 women and one man were arrested for holding a peaceful demonstration in Harare on 28 May. The activists, who marched to the Zambian Embassy, were calling on the Chairperson of the Southern African Development Community to bring an end to the violence that has been taking place in Zimbabwe since elections were held on 29 March 2008.
They were charged with "distributing materials likely to cause a breach of the peace," which violates Section 37 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act. Jenni Williams was further charged with "publishing or communicating false statements prejudicial to the state."
Amnesty International (AI) raised concerns about the activists were not only being held under harsh prison conditions, but they also risked "grave danger of torture or other ill-treatment." The right group complained that WOZA detainees have been denied "sufficient blankets and warm clothing" at a time Zimbabwe is currently experiencing winter.
The AI also blamed Zimbabwean authorities for arresting and detaining WOZA members for "purely attempting to exercise their universally guaranteed rights to freedom of association and assembly."
In a statement, the AI urged Zimbabwean Minister of Justice to "release WOZA members, including Jenni Williams and Magadonga Mahlangu and 12 others, immediately and unconditionally, as they have been detained solely for the peaceful exercise of their rights to freedom of association and assembly."
Justice Minister was also called to "ensure that they are not tortured or otherwise ill-treated, but are treated in compliance with human rights standards governing the treatment of detainees, and have access to their lawyers, families and their needs.
Since its formation in 2003, dozens of WOZA members have been arrested and detained, but the current development has been attributed to a wider crackdown on human rights defenders, trade unionist, lawyers, journalists, election observers and opposition activists, in the wake of parliamentary and presidential elections of 29 March.
Zimbabweans are expected to return to the polls within 20 days for a second round presidential election poll between President Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai of the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change.
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