Freedom House Concerned by Harassment of Zimbabwean Civil Society Leader
Freedom House is gravely concerned by the ongoing harassment of Zimbabwean civil society leader and diamond activist Farai Maguwu, who was harshly interrogated by plain-clothes police at Harare International Airport upon re-entry into Zimbabwe on Monday, in clear defiance of a recent court decision ordering security services to desist from harassing him. The continual harassment of Maguwu by state security agents loyal to Zimbabwe’s ruling ZANU-PF party is a clear attempt to silence his efforts to draw attention to the horrific abuses taking place in the country’s Marange diamond fields.
Maguwu, Director of the Center for Research and Development (CRD), is a prominent human rights advocate who this year was awarded the prestigious Alison Des Forges prize by Human Rights Watch, an award that “celebrates the valor of individuals who put their lives on the line to protect the dignity and rights of others.”
In 2010, after Maguwu met with a monitor from the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (the world’s diamond control body) to discuss the abuses he uncovered in Marange, Zimbabwean authorities raided and ransacked his home and offices, and arrested him on charges of providing false information about killings and torture by military officials in the diamond fields. He was imprisoned for more than a month and was consistently denied medical care, even though he suffered from a serious ailment. Since that time, authorities in Zimbabwe have sustained their strategy of harassment and intimidation, including persistent and credible death threats. In September, Maguwu’s personal laptop, wallet, cash in the amount of USD $2000, business cards, bank cards, and a digital camera were illegally seized by Zimbabwean police and have yet to be returned.
In September 2011, a High Court granted an order clearly stating that authorities must “desist and stop from interfering with [Maguwu’s] freedom of movement, association, right to property and protection of the law.”
Freedom House calls on the government of Zimbabwe to immediately cease the harassment and intimidation of Farai Maguwu, and respect his fundamental right to carry out legitimate human rights work. Freedom House also calls on other human rights organizations and civil society groups, both in Zimbabwe and abroad, to remain alert and steadfast in shedding light on this particularly egregious case of persecution.