Zimbabwean human rights activist imprisoned over diamond report

By staff writers
9 Jul 2010

Amnesty International is calling on the Zimbabwean government to release an activist who is being detained after he exposed human rights violations in the country’s Marange diamond fields.

Farai Maguwu has been detained since 3 June, and charged with “publishing or communicating false information prejudicial to the state”, after he reportedly told a diamond trade monitor about human rights violations carried out by security forces in the Marange diamond fields.

The activist had handed himself in to the police after members of his family were beaten and interrogated by state officials.

On Friday, a Harare Magistrate denied Farai Maguwu bail after the state prosecutor said more time was needed to complete investigations. Lawyers are appealing against the court’s decision to deny him bail.

“Farai Maguwu is being persecuted for carrying out his lawful work of monitoring and documenting alleged human rights violations by security forces at some of Zimbabwe’s richest diamond fields,” said Erwin van der Borght, Amnesty International’s Africa Director.

Emphasising that Amnesty consider Farai Maguwu a prisoner of conscience, he called on the authorities to release him “immediately and unconditionally”.

Maguwu’s lawyers say their client is being detained as a punishment for revealing human rights violations to a diamond monitor from the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KP), which is aimed at certifying rough diamonds as being free from links to violence.

Abbey Chikane, the KP monitor on Zimbabwe, stated in his report on the country’s compliance with the KP scheme that he met with Farai Maguwu in the presence of state intelligence officers, raising fears that he seriously compromised Farai Maguwu’s safety.

Amnesty say that the monitor’s statement calls into question the Kimberley Process’ methods for protecting people who provide information about human rights violations at Zimbabwe’s diamond fields.

Farai Maguwu is head of the Centre for Research and Development (CRD), an organisation that, as an official observer of the Kimberly Process, has been central in investigating human rights violations against local people in Marange diamond fields.

The activist is being charged under Section 31 of the Criminal Law (Reform and Codification). Amnesty argue that this section violates the right to freedom of expression and falls short of the standards set out under the Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, which states that everyone has the right to know, seek, obtain, receive and hold information about all human rights and fundamental freedoms.

According to Amnesty, this includes the right to submit to governmental bodies, agencies and organisations concerned with public affairs, criticism and proposals for improving their functioning, and the right to draw attention to any aspect of their work that may hinder or impede the promotion, protection and realisation of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

[Ekk/1]

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