Police raid rights group offices

HARARE - Police yesterday raided the offices of a non-governmental organisation which offers support to victims of political violence and torture.

Around midday yesterday about 20 police detectives wielding a search warrant raided the Counselling Services Unit (CSU) offices in Harare in search of “subversive material” with fear abound that there could be a sinister move to destroy evidence of torture.

The CSU provides medical and psychological care for victims of organised violence and torture, and advocates for the complete elimination of torture in Zimbabwe.

A team of lawyers from Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) Kennedy Masiye, Tonderai Bhatasara,Tarisai Mutangi, and  Blessing Gorejena, Tafadzwa Christmas and Aretha Dzingirai of the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum are representing the CSU employees.

Masiye said the police had confiscated a computer central processing unit and other documents.

“We protested but they took the things anyway. Our protests were based on the fact that the police action was outside the parameters of the warrant they were using,” said Masiye.

According to the search warrant, a copy of which the Daily News has seen, the police had reasonable grounds to believe that: “the CSU is in possession offensive and subversive material which are concerned or on reasonable grounds believed to be in commission or suspected commission of an offence of material in contravention of section 46 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act 9:3.”

Police arrested CSU staffers Fidelis Mudimu, Zachariah Godi, James Zidzimu, Tafadzwa Gesa and Penn Bruno whom they have taken into custody at Harare Central Police Station.

A statement from ZLHR said the CSU has been blacklisted by Zanu PF.

“The police on Monday November 5, 2012 resumed their crackdown against non-governmental organisations (NGOs) which have been blacklisted by President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF party by arresting five employees of the Counselling Services Unit (CSU).

“About 20 police officers led by detective assistant inspector Henry Dowa and detective assistant inspector Murira raided the CSU offices around lunch time armed with a search warrant justifying their raid as aimed to recover “offensive and subversive material from the organisation’s offices in Harare,” said the statement.

“The raid on the CSU offices follows that of the Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe whose offices were twice raided in August after the police claimed that the organisation and its leaders were in possession of pamphlets and fliers with information that promotes homosexuality for distribution.”

Crisis Coalition director Mcdonald Lewanika said the police raid was meant to intimidate human rights defenders.

“The raid on the CSU offices is an affront and an unwarranted siege which is meant to serve no other purpose but to intimidate human rights organisations and human rights defenders.

“The police are worried about their actions, and are going after organisations that they suspect to have information on their actions, but what has happened to CSU, is evidence in itself of the callous nature of the police force.

 “There is no further evidence beyond this that can vindicate people who have constantly reiterated that we are living in a police state in Zimbabwe,” Lewanika said.

CID spokesperson Sharon Musendo told the Daily News she was not aware of the arrests.

“I am not aware. I have only heard about it from journalists who are calling me. Please call me tomorrow mid-morning I may be having details by then,” Musendo said.

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