The United States Embassy in Harare has urged the government of Zimbabwe to respect the country’s constitution and desist from prosecuting citizens under laws that have been declared unconstitutional.
In a post on Twitter this Wednesday, the embassy reminded Harare that the country’s 2013 constitution protects free speech and called upon the government to uphold the human rights of all citizens. It said:
“Zimbabwe’s 2013 Constitution protects speech and the rights of the arrested and detained. All Zimbabweans should benefit from these fundamental freedoms equally. No citizen should face prosecution under laws already declared unconstitutional.”
This follows the arrest and detention of MDC Alliance senior officials, the party’s spokesperson Fadzayi Mahare and vice-chairperson Job Sikhala as well as prominent journalist Hopewell Chin’ono on allegations of communicating falsehoods.
The trio was arrested early this month for allegedly claiming on social media that a police officer had fatally assaulted a baby strapped to its mother’s back in Harare.
They are being charged under Section 31 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act which deals with “publishing or communicating false statements prejudicial to the State.”
However, legal experts and human rights defenders argue the law under which the trio are being charged was declared unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court in 2014 in a matter brought by two Zimbabwe Independent newspaper journalists.