28 Feb 2002
Human rights defenders at risk in Zimbabwe

On 21 January 2002, the IRCT held a press conference at the press centre of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg in order to raise awareness of the alarming situation facing the AMANI Trust, two rehabilitation centres for torture victims in Bulawayo and Harare, Zimbabwe. 

The centre in Harare was forced to temporarily close down to ensure the protection of both staff and clients, as a consequence of President Mugabe's intensifying crack-down on human rights organizations. The centre has now reopened, despite the ongoing situation.

The Director of AMANI Trust, Mr. Anthony P. Reeler, is a member of the IRCT Council and the IRCT Executive Committee, and he and the work of the AMANI Trust are well-known and respected in the international human rights community. The centre has been the victim of a media campaign by state-owned newspaper, 'The Herald' (17 January 2002), printing unfounded allegations that the AMANI Trust is funding safe houses for criminals, and paying them 200 dollars a day to undertake night raids against members of President Mugabe's Zanu-PF party. The allegations are as absurd as they are serious.

It is increasingly evident that Zimbabwe's President, Robert Mugabe, is ready to further violate human rights in order to win the March presidential election. The documentation regarding acts of torture has been published by several independent non-government organizations, including the IRCT and the Danish Centre for Research and Rehabilitation of Torture Victims (RCT). In January this year, a team representing Physicians for Human Rights, Denmark, visited Zimbabwe, producing a comprehensive report documenting evidence of torture, killings, death threats, and harassment. The majority of the acts of violence was allegedly perpetrated by supporters of the Mugabe government. 

It is unacceptable that those who are working in support of human rights, in support of victims of torture, and in support of peace and democracy, are subjected to unlawful acts of violence, condoned by the state. It is unacceptable that the international community is allowing the Mugabe regime, through lack of political will or action, to repress its people and to harass and attack human rights defenders. 

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