CIVICUS calls on the Zimbabwean authorities to immediately release Obert Masaraure, an activist and human rights defender. Obert is the president of the Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ), which works, among others, to defend the labour rights of teachers.
The arrest and charges of Obert threaten freedom of expression, association, and assembly and as a foundation of democratic and accountable governance in Zimbabwe. All governments must protect the right to freedom of expression and information. Such continued practices of judicial harassment have an immense consequence on citizens’ voices that need to be heard the loudest, not silenced en masse.
There have been systematic harassment and mistreatment of ARTUZ and its activists for the last 5 years, including denying them ‘permission’ to protest, abducting and kidnapping its officials such as Robson Chere, Jess Drury, Precious Ndlovu and Munyaradzi Ndawana. The attack on Obert is part of a pattern of violations against ARTUZ and its members by the government authorities.
“It is extremely worrying that the Zimbabwean government continues to silence activists, trade unionists, and human rights defenders. We call on the government to drop all charges against Obert and respect Zimbabwe’s constitutional and international human rights obligations. Said Paul Mulindwa, CIVICUS Advocacy and Campaigns Officer.
In June 2016, during a workshop, a youth activist and associate member of ARTUZ Roy Issa fell from the 7th floor of the hotel and died. During the initial investigation into the incident, Obert Masaraure was not interrogated or considered a witness as he was not present at the hotel at the time of the unfortunate event. The Court Inquest heard the case in 2016 at the Harare Magistrates Court, and the court ruled out any form of foul play, and the case was closed. On 14 June 2022, Obert Masaraure was arrested and charged with the murder of Roy Issa. He was arrested a few days after receiving the Human Rights Defenders Award in Dublin and a few days before the peaceful protests planned by ARTUZ from the 20th to the 24th of June. Obert Masaraure still faces a long list of charges, including a charge of treason for “subverting a constitutionally elected government and inciting public violence” going back to 2019.