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Police raid the house of director of WRI affiliate GALZ in Zimbabwe

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Subsequent to the arrest of Ellen Chademana and Ignatius Muhambi, employees of the WRI's affiliate Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ) on charges of “possessing dangerous drugs and pornographic material” on the 21st May 2010, the police have gone further to search the house of Chesterfield Samba, former WRI Council member and the Director of GALZ. The raid took place this morning (26 May 2010) at 0600hrs. Five police officers from the Zimbabwe Republic Police searched the house and confiscated Mr. Samba’s birth certificate, passport photo, magazines and business cards. Mr. Samba was not present during the ordeal, but the family members there report that the police asked for his whereabouts and when he will return.

The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum (the Forum) condemns this conduct by the police in the strongest terms. The conduct of the police is unwarranted and is testament of the levels of intolerance within the police force and our government. Further the Forum questions the independence of the police in executing what clearly are political instructions against the gay and lesbian community in Zimbabwe.

The Forum reiterates its calls to all civil society organisations to stand in support of GALZ as fellow comrades in the struggle for human rights, being mindful of the fact that such repression can easily happen to any organisation fighting impunity in this country.

Torture of Ellen Chademana and Ignatius Muhambi

Two Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ) employees on Wednesday 26 May 2010 alleged that police severely tortured them in their holding cells.

David Hofisi and Dzimbabwe Chimbga, the lawyers representing the two employees Ellen Chademana and Ignatius Muhambi told Harare Magistrate Munamato Mutevedzi that their clients were tortured during their detention in police cells and asked for an investigation into the alleged torture.

Muhambi alleged that police used empty soft drinks bottles to assault him on his knees and forced him to “sit” in a position without a chair or any other tool for a long period. Chademana said the police also forced her to undertake the same action for a long period.

Both detainees allege that they were subjected to assaults all over their bodies.

Hofisi applied for the release of Muhambi and Chademana on bail arguing that the two were suitable candidates for bail.

But Magistrate Mutevedzi rolled over the bail application to Thursday 27 May 2010 after State Prosecutor Bruce Tokwe requested for a postponement of the bail application to acquaint himself with the facts of the matter.

Magistrate Mutevedzi initially ordered the police to surrender the two GALZ employees to Harare Remand Prison. However the police indicated that they would not be able to transfer the duo, forcing Magistrate Mutevedzi to publicly caution the police to only detain the two employees in police cells and not to torture or assault them whilst in cells until Thursday morning when they are supposed to be brought to court for the finalization of the bail application.

Meanwhile High Court Judge, Justice Joseph Musakwa will on Thursday 27 May at 14:15hrs preside over an Urgent Chamber Application filed by Chademana and Mhambi’s lawyers seeking their release. In their application the lawyers have requested the Officer in Charge of CID Drugs, only identified as Chibvuma, and Detective Inspector Gomo to release the two GALZ employees from the custody of the police because their arrest and detention is unlawful.

The lawyers argue that the arrest and detention of the two GALZ employees is now beyond the statutory 48 hour period provided for by Section 32 of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act (Chapter 9:07).

The Urgent Chamber Application was filed at the High Court in Harare on Tuesday 25 May 2010 at 13:00hrs. The Duty Judge, Justice Lavender Makoni, after asking the clerk to read the Certificate of Urgency to her over the telephone, stated that the matter “could wait” until the following day. It was following this delay that police unlawfully removed Chademana and Mhambi from their police holding cell and subjected them to the assaults described above, which amount to torture under the Constitution of Zimbabwe and various regional and international instruments to which Zimbabwe has become a voluntary State Party.

The concerns were raised in a letter to the Judge President, Justice George Chiweshe, and by way of a Supplementary Affidavit filed in the High Court by the detainees’ lawyer, Dzimbabwe Chimbga. An urgent set-down of the matter for today was requested in light of the safety and security concerns; however the High Court saw it fit to delay the matter further, to Thursday afternoon.

The GALZ employees were arrested on Friday 21 May 2010 and charged with being in possession of obscene, indecent or prohibited articles in breach of Section 26 (1) (b) of the Censorship and Entertainment Control Act chapter 10:04. On Monday 24 May 2010 the police also charged the two with contravening Section 33 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act for allegedly undermining the authority of President.

A protest email can be sent at http://wri-irg.org/node/10200