On 24 August 2020, along with the Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression, the Special Rapporteur on freedom of assembly and association, and the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, I sent an allegation letter to the Zimbabwe Government about the situation of human rights defenders Mr Hopewell Chin'ono and Ms Tsitsi Dangarembga.
Hopewell Chin'ono is a freelance journalist and human rights defender who has investigated corruption within State procurement in Zimbabwe, notably in relation to the provision of medical supplies during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Tsitsi Dangarembga is a feminist writer and novelist who has denounced human rights violations, militarization and corruption in Zimbabwe.
According to the information received:
Hopewell Chin'ono was arrested on 20 July 2020 after having made a series of posts on social media in support of demonstrations calling for economic and political reform, organised for 31 July 2020. No warrant was presented at the time of his arrest. He was subsequently detained and informed that he faced charges of “inciting the public to engage in violence” in relation to his social media posts.
Following searches carried out with procedural irregularities at Hopewell's home and the temporary detention of his lawyer, also in July, the human rights defender was moved to Chikurubi maximum security prison on 7 August 2020, where he was being held in poor conditions and with restricted access to his lawyer.
Tsitsi Dangarembga was arrested by a group of police officers on 31 July 2020, as she peacefully participated in the planned protest. She was released on bail on 1 August 2020, charged with “participation in a gathering with the intention to incite public violence.”
In our letter, we expressed serious concern that the arrests formed part of a recent clampdown on civil society in Zimbabwe, including restrictions freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and the criminalisation of human rights defenders.
The full letter is available here: https://spcommreports.ohchr.org/TMResultsBase/DownLoadPublicCommunicationFile?gId=25502
A response by the Government to our communication was received on 20 October 2020 and is available in full here: https://spcommreports.ohchr.org/TMResultsBase/DownLoadFile?gId=35642