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Civil Society Coalitions issue response to police crackdown

Civil Society Coalitions issue response to police crackdown

http://www.swradioafrica.com

By Tererai Karimakwenda
08 November 2012

Civil Society Coalitions, which represent hundreds of member organisations 
in Zimbabwe, met in Harare on Thursday and issued a collective response to 
the intensifying crackdown on human rights defenders and political activists 
in the country.

The gathering of key groups came in the wake of a police raid on the offices 
of the Counselling Services Unit (CSU) on Monday, which saw three staff 
members arrested and computers and files confiscated by the police. The CSU 
offers counselling and medical support to victims of violence and torture.

The CSU police raid brought many angry reactions from around the country and 
the world, mobilised civil society and, more importantly, cast a spotlight 
on the abusive, partisan and illegal actions of the Zimbabwe Republic 
Police.

The raiding team included officers from the bomb disposal squad and an 
information technology expert. Armed riot police who surrounded the building 
also threatened to fire tear gas, which scared other tenants who occupy the 
building and frightened away traumatised clients who were scheduled for 
treatment.

In addition, the police confiscated a computer with confidential client 
files. This was not listed on the search warrant they produced. The seizure 
of these files was completely illegal and characterises the behaviour of the 
police in Zimbabwe.

Abel Chikomo, director of the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, told SW Radio 
Africa that the Coalitions felt it necessary to issue a strong statement 
condemning recent police actions because they have a lasting effect on the 
general population, which determines how they act during elections.

“It’s about the communities, the people, the electorate itself. The people 
will look at it and say ‘if they can arrest and torture those activists like 
they are doing, what about me?’ Some people will end up shying away from 
processes that have to do with them. Processes to do with governance and so 
forth,” Chikomo explained.

Asked why the police would target a group like CSU, which helps victims of 
political violence, Chikomo said: “My suspicion is that they want to make 
sure there is no avenue that people have to access medical support when they 
are victimised by political violence and torture.”

He added that places like the government-run Parirenyatwa Hospital require 
victims to produce a police report before they can receive medical 
treatment. The CSU is not partisan and does not require clearance from the 
police.

The Civil Society Coalitions who issued the statement include the Crisis in 
Zimbabwe Coalition, Media Alliance of Zimbabwe, National Association of 
Non-Governmental Organisations, National Constitutional Assembly, Women’s 
Coalition, Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions and Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO 
Forum.

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