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Zimbabwe Human Rights Activist Charged With Failure to Register Group

Sources said the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum is registered as a common law association as provided for under the constitution, making it exempt from registration as a private voluntary organization

Zimbabwean authorities have charged the head of the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum with running his organization without properly registering it under the law.

Sources said Abel Chikomo reported to the Harare Central Police Station on Thursday and was charged with violating the Private Voluntary Organizations Act. He was not detained but was told to report back to police on Friday, the sources said.

The sources said Chikomo would report to police on Monday. In such cases activists put off reporting to police on Fridays when they are likely to be held over the weekend.

Sources said police had been visiting the non-governmental umbrella organization regularly since February, demanding to see Chikomo.

Sources in Chikomo's organization said it is exempt from registering under the legislation cited by police. They said it is registered as a common law association, as provided for under the constitution, exempting it from registration under the PVO Act.

The sources said the organization has been operating for many years and is recognized by the Zimbabwean Parliament, with which it closely collaborates.

Lawyer Chris Mhike told VOA Studio 7 reporter Patience Rusere that the case is another example of official harassment of civic groups.

Amnesty International, whose Zimbabwe branch is a member of the NGO Forum, said it is concerned as authorities continue to harass and intimidate civic groups.

Amnesty International researcher Simeon Mwanza said the systematic targeting of human rights defenders is a clear violation of international law.

Mwanza told VOA reporter Tatenda Gumbo that the charges against Chikomo will have a serious impact on all human rights defenders in the country.