Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) director Roselyn Hanzi has called for the immediate release of 40 Civic Society Organization (CSO) staff, who are being detained by police without being allowed access to legal representation.
Civil societies – which form a critical part of any democratic system – provide key services during elections by holding governments accountable through representing or advocating for citizens.
They also build the capacity of citizens to participate in governance and public administration.
According to Hanzi, the 40, who are members of either Election Resource Centre (ERC) or Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN), were arrested at around 21:00 on August 23 after police raided their offices.
In posts on social media platform X (formerly Twitter) Hanzi said the activists were being detained without access to lawyers and had not been allowed to make any telephone calls.
“The more time passes without access to lawyers, it will become an enforced disappearance,” said Hanzi.
Hanzi also expressed sadness that despite the Zimbabwe constitution clearly stating that police must respect the rights of arrested and detained individuals, none of the CSO activists had been afforded their rights.
“They are detained incommunicado. This is a clear sign that the police have arrested an estimated 40 @ercafrica & @ZESN1 personnel to investigate. Police should investigate first and arrest after they have established a reasonable suspicion that a crime has been committed.
“Why have they not been afforded a phone call? They need to be fed and be treated with dignity. How safe are they? Incommunicado detention is unconstitutional!” Hanzi added.
The Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) is yet to comment on the arrests.