FREE ALL POLITICAL PRISONERS AND PRISONERS OF CONSCIENCE IN ZIMBABWE
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This is an urgent appeal to the leaders of Zimbabwe to grant unconditional amnesty amounting to full, complete and unconditional parliamentary and presidential pardon to all political prisoners and prisoners of conscience in the country.
We call on the support of the international community in our quest to secure the release of all political prisoners and prisoners of conscience in Zimbabwe. The appalling conditions of their incarceration are set out below.
To lend credence to the much publicized ‘new dispensation’, we urge decision-makers to give serious consideration to this urgent appeal and as a matter of principle, to exonerate ALL political prisoners and prisoners of conscience who have suffered unlawful detention in Zimbabwe. Placed within the critical context of the circumstances leading to the detention of these prisoners, one must emphasize the following injustices perpetrated by authorities:
1) Arbitrary arrest or detention
2) Denial of access to lawyers
3) Prolonged pretrial detention
4) Exorbitant demands for bail
5) Unfair and unconstitutional trials
6) Trumped up criminal charges, lacking evidence and proof
7) Prolonged pretrial detention
8) Torture for the purposes of interrogation in police cells
The leaders of Zimbabwe have committed to fair, free and credible elections. This promise cannot be honoured as long as members of a legal opposition party are imprisoned following unfair ‘politicized’ trials and charges that are only based on police statement. Whatever the judiciary ruled at the time of their trials, it was biased and compromised - Tungamirai Madzokere, Last Maengahama and Yvonne Musarurwa must be set free, alongside other political prisoners.
We witnessed President Mnangagwa’s address to the nation and his pledge to restore constitutionality, which encompasses legality on the part of the government and righting the wrongs of previous years. In an interview with Bloomberg on 19th January this year, President Mnangagwa committed to a “New Zimbabwe”, based on fundamental change and democratic principles. Those incarcerated on grounds of politics and conscience are detained because they too aspire to change in Zimbabwe. Whilst those who orchestrated the ‘coup’ have been widely applauded for ridding the country of an abusive dictatorship, those who followed a vision of reformation have been excluded from society and held in the most inhumane captivity.
The present leaders of Zimbabwe found it imperative to take the most severe and radical interventionist action to halt the political machinations of the Mugabe regime on the premise of averting crucial disaster. However, they are not only free men, they have enhanced status and are now leaders of Zimbabwe whilst those who did nothing other but express their commitment to change are incarcerated in the prisons of Zimbabwe. Both were motivated by the same desire for change, so we beg the question as to why the other critics of the Mugabe regime are not also free men and women?
The present government deemed drastic intercession necessary for the reasons that were broadcast to the nation and to the international community by Major General Sibusiso Moyo on Wednesday, November 15th 2017:
a) To target criminals, who are causing social and economic suffering in the country in order to bring them to justice, and
b) to pacify a degenerating political, social and economic situation in our country which if not addressed may result in violent conflict.
The motivation for prisoners of conviction and conscience is the same, that is, to stop the suffering of the nation and to avert further political, social and economic deterioration. It follows that they are NOT criminals. The non-violent expression of one’s viewpoint is a basic right of every citizen and is embedded in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which extends to Freedom of Speech, Freedom of the Press and Freedom of Association. Criticism of a government’s incapacity to establish and maintain a stable, egalitarian, economically secure and peaceful society is not a criminal offence.
We beg all who read this petition to contemplate the disastrous conditions in Zimbabwe’s prisons. Across Zimbabwe's 40-odd prisons the annual death toll undoubtedly reaches well into the thousands. The immediate causes of escalating prison deaths are apparent: severe overcrowding, broken, overflowing toilets, water and electricity cuts, a lack of blankets, uniforms, winter clothing, medicines and other basic commodities such as soap exacerbated by severe food shortages. Poor sanitary conditions contribute to disease, including diarrhea, measles, hypertension, tuberculosis, diabetes, asthma, respiratory diseases and HIV/AIDS-related illnesses. Isolated cases of meningitis and pellagra have been reported and periodic outbreaks of cholera (2008/2009) and typhoid in 2017 aggravate an already catastrophic environment. When the systemic humiliation and de-humanization practices are considered, the circumstances may legitimately be referred to as “death traps”. The use of leg irons, constant beatings, strip-searching, enforced nakedness, ‘star-jumps’ and prolonged squatting – besides the ravaging hunger and catastrophic sanitary conditions can only spell a slow and painful death.
If His Excellency President Mnangagwa and the Rtd. General Constantino Chiwenga, incumbent First Vice-President of Zimbabwe, believe that the last president, Robert Mugabe, had to be deposed to save the country from further degeneration, then they must conclude that (political) prisoners of conviction and conscience are not criminals.
Free all political prisoners and prisoners of conscience in Zimbabwe!
God bless Zimbabwe.
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