The Zimbabwe Europe Network (ZEN) strongly condemns the continued criminalisation of Zimbabwean civil society by the Zimbabwean authorities.
In times of deep economic distress, there is a need for the government to ensure stability and the respect of basic rights for Zimbabwean citizens.
ZEN is deeply concerned that the crackdown against civil society, which accompanied the violence against Zimbabwean citizens in January, has not stopped and even intensified in recent weeks. Of particular concern are the continued detention of Zimbabwean activists, the ongoing harassment and intimidation of civil society and their families by state security agents, and the human rights violations conducted in the process. In addition, the added layers of scrutiny through surveillance and hardened legislation are creating limited room for civil society to play their role as watchdogs, advocates and dialogue partners.
ZEN therefore calls upon the authorities to immediately stop the crackdown on Zimbabwean civil society and their families. In particular, any use of violence must end.
ZEN further joins widespread calls that the Zimbabwean authorities should drop the trumped-up charges against activists currently detained, and desist from using the highly criticized offence of ‘subverting a constitutional government’ to punish human rights defenders for the exercise of fundamental freedoms guaranteed under Zimbabwe law.
Although ZEN remains supportive of the re-engagement agenda of the EU, we continue to insist that European engagement should be inclusive and value-driven, and as such take place through dialogue with citizens and on the basis of human rights.
ZEN therefore calls upon the EU and its member states to strongly condemn the continued crackdown on Zimbabwean civil society. The EU should use its position and leverage to urge the Zimbabwean authorities to stop the violence, detentions and criminalisation of civil society with immediate effect. It should be stressed Zimbabwean civil society’s freedom to operate and express themselves must be part of the reforms that are needed for increased European engagement and support.
Furthermore, Zimbabwean civil society should be included in the EU’s engagement with the Zimbabwean government, as outlined in Art 8 of the Cotonou Agreement that guides the formal Political Dialogue that was launched earlier this week.
Lastly, ZEN urges the wider regional and international community to remain engaged and willing to speak out against injustices and human rights violations, as it has become increasingly difficult for Zimbabwean civil society representatives to do so.