Zimbabwe: LGBT activists being visited by police after last week’s raid

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Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) say that some of the LGBT campaigners arrested last week are being visited by police at home and that those who were not arrested have been ordered to report to their local police stations.

About 20 police officers raided the Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ) offices on Monday 13 August claiming they were searching for illegal data and offensive materials.

No search warrant was produced, according to lawyer Kumbirai Mafunda who told SW Radio Africa: “We have not been advised of any charges being brought by the police. We have deployed lawyers to monitor the situation and they have not been shown any search warrant by the police.”

Riot police, some of them described as “visibly drunk”, disrupted a GALZ meeting where members had gathered to discuss the new draft constitution.

The group had also launched their Violations Report, detailing abuses against the LGBT community in Zimbabwe, which may have been the reason behind the raid.

At the raid, 44 GALZ members were arrested – 31 men and 13 women – and taken to Harare Central, where they were ordered to give their names, addresses and other personal details.

Some members said they were assaulted. None of those arrested were detained under a specific charge.

ZLHR said that police were searching for the same activists that were detained last week and at least three members have been interrogated so far.

They say police asked them about materials at the GALZ offices that “insult the authority of the President”.

Amnesty International released a statement condemning the police action. The organisation’s African Director Audrey Gaughran said: “The police action is a blatant violation of the basic human rights of these individuals. They have not committed any crime under Zimbabwean law.

“[We fear that] these acts of harassment and intimidation by police contribute to a climate of discrimination, harassment and fear for individuals who may be targeted for violence on the basis of their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.”

This incident comes just a month after it was reported that GALZ was to be charged under Section 33 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act, the law which makes it illegal to insult President Mugabe or undermine his office.

In 2010, it is claimed GALZ displayed in its office a letter by former San Francisco Mayor Willie Lewis Brown, Jr which criticised Mugabe and may have breached the law.