Four members of the Zimbabwe group Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) were arrested and detained today after taking part in a peaceful demonstration outside of the Meikles hotel in Harare. The WOZA members are believed to have been seriously injured after they were allegedly beaten by police at the demonstration. The arrests and beatings of these human rights defenders occurred while the Secretary General of Amnesty International, Irene Khan, was in Harare on the final day of a fact-finding mission to Zimbabwe. Amnesty International has been informed that police accused the WOZA members of demonstrating in front of International visitors in order to embarrass the government and understands that this is why they were arrested. The four WOZA members, who are currently detained at Harare Central police station, have allegedly been denied access to medical care by the Law and Order section of the Zimbabwe Republic Police. Another demonstration in Bulawayo was was violently broken up by police on Wednesday.
This week, Amnesty International kicked off a high level research mission to Kenya to launch our first Demand Dignity campaign action. Irene Khan, Amnesty’s Secretary General, visited to two informal settlements in Nairobi – where almost two million people live in slums – asking residents to tell the Kenyan government what dignity mean to them via a free SMS service. The responses have been inspiring, take a look at a few:
For me, living with dignity means “setting principles to your ways and standard of living and be true to them.”
“Dignity is having three meals a day. Clean water. shelter. Good roads. justice for all but not for the few corrupt.”
“Dignity refers to carrying humanity with respect and honour.”
Community members from Korogocho and Kibera slums told the Amnesty delegation stories, sang songs and used street theatre performances to illustrate the human rights violations they face everyday as slum residents. Irene Khan noted:
“The development of slums in urban areas has become the iconic symbol of the forgotten, marginalized people – excluded not only from basic services like sanitation, but also from the decision making that takes place even in their own lives.”
In the settlements, children play in muddy streams which run through narrow passageways, while pathways are littered with garbage, animal and human waste. Overcrowding in Kibera – Africa’s largest slum – is a huge problem with more than 800,000 people living on 250 hectares
Many of the informal settlement residents described the insecurity associated with slum-life. In Korogocho, Irene Khan met with Mama Franco, a mother of three, who recently lost her few personal possessions in a house fire started by the paraffin lamp she uses as she has no electricity supply. Mama Franco is one of an estimated 127,000 poor Kenyans who face losing their homes in a planned river clean up program.
Amnesty International’s Demand Dignity campaign seeks to empower people living in poverty and take their voices to the highest level of government. The voices collected in Kenya’s informal settlements through the SMS action and website will be collected and presented to the Kenya government on World Habitat Day.
The ICC’s pre-trial chamber has issued an arrest warrant for Omar al-Bashir, the head of state of Sudan. Already, the government in Khartoum has rejected the court’s decision.
The government of Sudan must comply with the arrest warrant. The ICC case against al-Bashir and already-issued arrest warrants against Ahmed Haroun and Janjaweed leader Ali Muhammad Ali Abd al-Rahman must proceed without delay. The United States–no traditional friend of the ICC–joins the ranks this morning of states and peoples around the world who demand justice for violations of the most inviolable prescriptions of international law.
Irene Khan, the Secretary General of Amnesty International echoed the legal obligations of Sudan: “The law is clear. President al-Bashir must appear before the ICC to defend himself. If he refuses to do so, the Sudanese authorities must ensure he is arrested and surrendered immediately to the ICC.”
Amnesty has long campaigned for justice for Darfur, and campaigned for Khartoum to cooperate with the ICC. Omar al-Bashir’s war crimes, steadfast obstruction of justice, and evident crimes against humanity have placed him rightly among other indicted international criminals. His role as head of state of Sudan is not a shield against the law; while he has been happy to use his power to violate the law and create an a climate of impunity, that power must–and will–bend to the most fundamental notions of justice.
Stay tuned here as news and analysis continues to develop throughout the day…
Action for Human Rights. Hope for Humanity.