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February 7, 2017
Evan Mawarire, of the #ThisFlag Movement, Should Be Immediately Released by the Government of Zimbabwe
Posted by Susan Farbstein
Update: Thankfully, since this post was published, Evan Mawarire has been released.
Back in November, I was pleased to moderate a conversation with pastor Evan Mawarire, the leader of the #ThisFlag movement, which in 2016 channeled citizens’ frustrations into large-scale protests against corruption, human rights abuse, and economic decline in Zimbabwe. It was therefore deeply distressing to learn that he was arrested last Wednesday at Harare International Airport when he returned to the country. He continues to be held at Harare Central Police Station.
Mawarire was initially charged with subverting a constitutionally-elected government and was expected to appear in court for a hearing and the opportunity to make bail. However, additional charges of insulting the Zimbabwean flag and inciting violence were added in an apparent attempt to prolong his detention and suppress his cause. He is expected back in court on February 17. If the case proceeds to trial he could face 20 years in prison.
Mawarire was previously arrested for treason last July. After thousands protested outside the courthouse, the charges were dismissed and he was released. He left soon after for South Africa and, subsequently, the United States, fearing for his safety.
Zimbabwe’s criminal justice system should not be used to intimidate citizens who speak out against abuse or target activists who organize peaceful resistance. Mawarire should be released and the charges against him dropped.
November 18, 2016
Monday, Nov. 21: “Protest and Social Media: A Conversation with Evan Mawarire of the #ThisFlag Movement
Protest and Social Media
A conversation with Evan Mawarire,
of the #ThisFlag movement
12:00- 1:00 p.m.
Please join us for a discussion with Zimbabwean pastor Evan Mawarire, of the #ThisFlag movement, as he examines the protests that swept across the nation and diaspora, calling for economic reform, restoration of basic services and an end to government repression in Zimbabwe. Mawarire, whose social media campaign helped to catalyze thousands of protestors, was later detained and charged with “attempting to overthrow the government.” He was quickly released after a magistrate ruled his arrest unconstitutional.
This talk is being co-sponsored by the Harvard African Law Association at Harvard Law School. Harvard ID is required. Lunch will be provided.
April 27, 2016
Since the 2013 Snowden revelations, media and civil society groups have closely scrutinized U.S. surveillance and intelligence sector law and policy, generating wide-ranging domestic and international debates on privacy, security, and the limits of state power. Less scrutinized, however, are the surveillance and intelligence sector policies and practices of countries that wield little international influence, but whose governments exercise significant control over citizens’ ability to communicate privately and speak freely.
Two such countries, Venezuela and Zimbabwe, are the subject of reports the International Human Rights Clinic and its partners recently submitted to the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). The joint reports document serious challenges to the right to privacy in both countries, including inadequate legal and policy frameworks on surveillance and intelligence gathering that are compounded by the absence of a strong and independent judiciary. These reports will ultimately help the United Nations Human Rights Council evaluate the human rights situation in both countries through the Universal Periodic Review (UPR).
The Clinic report on Venezuela, co-authored with Privacy International and Venezuelan non-profit Acceso Libre, notes a number of concerning developments since the country’s human rights situation was last assessed through the UPR in 2011: for example, the government has encouraged the emergence of “patriotas cooperantes” (cooperating patriots), anonymous informers who feed information to government officials about the activities of perceived government opponents. In a striking example of this practice, in February 2016 Reuters reported on the case of Rodolfo Gonzalez, who was arrested in April 2014 by intelligence agents and accused of masterminding protests against Venezuela’s President. The arrest was allegedly based on an audio recording provided by a cooperating patriot, in which Gonzalez discussed “destabilising actions” against the government. For nearly a year, Gonzalez was held in a facility operated by Venezuela’s major civilian intelligence agency while he waited for trial; he hanged himself in March 2015.
Similarly, in Zimbabwe, although the country’s new constitution (enacted in 2013) explicitly protects the right to privacy, the Clinic report, co-authored with Privacy International, the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, and the Digital Society of Zimbabwe, finds this promise has not translated into protection for privacy in law or practice since Zimbabwe’s last review through the UPR in 2011. Zimbabwe’s President, Robert Mugabe, presides over a notoriously partisan and secretive intelligence sector that is virtually unconstrained by law. Government officials have, in fact, boasted about the intelligence sector’s vast and unchecked surveillance capabilities: in 2014, a senior government Minister stated that the government “sees everything . . . No-one can hide from us in this country,” adding, “we will visit your bedrooms and expose what you will be doing.” Leaked documents released by Al Jazeera last year showed that Zimbabwe’s most significant intelligence agency, the Central Intelligence Organisation, developed a “joint action plan” in 2011 with a South African intelligence agency that included as one of its objectives “to monitor activities aimed at subverting [the] constitutional order,” a task that involved the “identification, profiling, and assessment of NGOs engaged in subversive activities.”
The Clinic reports also find that the laws governing communications surveillance in Venezuela and Zimbabwe fall short of international human rights standards articulated in the International Principles on the Application of Human Rights to Communications Surveillance, principles developed primarily by a coalition of civil society organizations, including Privacy International, in 2013. Additionally, the reports note the establishment of extensive databases containing personal information and a variety of other data collection activities that threaten the right to privacy in both countries. For example, both countries require cellphone companies to collect an array of personal information about their customers and the communications flowing through their networks, measures that are becoming commonplace across the globe, but which facilitate surveillance and undermine individuals’ ability to communicate anonymously.
In their reports, the Clinic and its partners offer a variety of recommendations, including, in both countries, to strengthen the independence of the judiciary and reform the legal frameworks governing surveillance and the intelligence sector. Venezuela and Zimbabwe will be reviewed through the UPR in Fall 2016.
An unofficial translation of the Venezuela report is here in Spanish.
Note: Fabiana Pardi Otamendi, LL.M ’16, Josiah Kollmeyer, JD ’17, Amanda MacFarlane, JD ’17, and MacKennan Graziano, JD ’17, worked on the reports in the Clinic in Fall 2015.
December 10, 2014
On Human Rights Day, Urgent Need to Promote Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights in Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe’s 2013 Constitution Presents Opportunities and Challenges
10 December 2014, Harare, Zimbabwe—Zimbabwe’s Constitution offers new opportunities to promote the economic, social, and cultural rights (ESCR) of all Zimbabweans, said Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) and the Harvard Law School International Human Rights Clinic (the Clinic) today.
ESCR are a fundamental component of international human rights law, and essential to the economic and political development of a nation. As a briefing paper released today by ZLHR and the Clinic explains, inclusion of some such rights—the rights to work, food, housing, the highest attainable standard of health, education, and culture—in the 2013 Constitution represents a major milestone in Zimbabwe’s history, and offers a source of hope for the country’s population.
“Economic, social, and cultural rights are indispensable to our families, our communities, and our political system,” said Irene Petras, Executive Director of ZLHR. “For the first time, the 2013 Constitution provides us with a legal framework to fight for the realisation of rights, thereby promoting the wellbeing of all Zimbabweans.”
July 31, 2014
Posted by Mindy Roseman
The Human Rights Program at Harvard Law School is pleased to announce the establishment of the Global Justice Fellowship (GJF) with the generous support of the Planethood Foundation. The fellowship supports scholars, advocates, and practitioners with a demonstrated background in international justice and the rule of law. Of most interest are those whose work concerns ongoing human rights issues, especially those touching on egregious violations, including genocide, crimes against humanity, or war crimes.
Matthew Bugher, JD ‘09, is the inaugural Global Justice Fellow. Over the coming year, Matthew will work to combat state-sponsored violence and persecution in Myanmar and Zimbabwe. More specifically, he will contribute to the Clinic’s ongoing advocacy relating to military policy reform in Myanmar; work with partners on new initiatives to promote accountability for gross human rights violations; and support local activists in their efforts to document abuses.
Earlier in the summer, the Human Rights Program made several other fellowship awards. With the support of a Henigson Human Rights Fellowship, Maryum Jordan, J.D. ’14, will work in Peru with EarthRights International; Lindsay Henson, J.D. ’14, will work in South Africa with Lawyers Against Abuse; Sarah Wheaton, J.D. ’14, will work in Egypt with St. Andrew’s Resettlement Legal Aid Project; and Anjali Mohan, J.D. ’14, will work in Myanmar with Justice Base.
HRP also awarded two Satter Human Rights fellowships: to James Tager, J.D. ’13, who will work with the International Commission of Jurists in Thailand, and to Jason Gelbort, J.D. ’13, who will work with Public International Law & Policy Group in Myanmar.
NOTE: HRP recently re-opened the application process for one more Satter Fellowship.
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