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Outrage Over Chingwizi Arrests as Lawyers Seek Release

The Chingwizi transit camp has some 3,100 tents, allowing just one tent per family regardless of family size. (Photo: Human Rights Watch)

Attorneys representing 29 Chingwizi villagers accused of public violence asked a Chiredzi court on Wednesday to release the suspects and remove them from remand, arguing there was no evidence linking them to the crime.

The Tokwe-Mukosi flood victims were rounded up at the weekend following violent skirmishes that resulted in the torching of two police vehicles.

The accused complained in court Tuesday that they had been assaulted while in custody and that their human rights had been breached in various ways by the police.

And on Wednesday the presiding magistrate agreed, but said he could not make a ruling on the matter as issues raised pertaining to their ill-treatment were constitutional and therefore, required the purview of the High Court.

The magistrate, Tawengwa Chibanda, will rule Thursday on the application to remove the villagers from remand, according to defence lawyer Blessing Nyamaropa.

Meanwhile, the Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP) has condemned the government for its handling of the Chingwizi crisis, calling on the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission to intervene.

The concerns were shared by the MDC Renewal Team.

“The people of Chingwizi are entitled to the right to human dignity and personal as enshrined in the bill of rights of the new constitution,” said party secretary for Social Welfare Lucia Matibenga.

“That same constitution grants them the right to shelter, food, health, education and to an environment that is not harmful to their well-being. The Zimbabwean government is in clear breach of the constitution.

“In addition all refugees or displaced persons are entitled to the protection of the 1950 Nations Convention relating to the status of refugees made under Resolution 429(v) of 14 December 1950.

“That United Nations resolution obliges third parties to provide welfare to refugees including education, public freedom, freedom of movement and personal security.”