Brutal assault

Zimbabwe - Brutal assault of Itai Dzamara and Kennedy Masiye following peaceful demonstration

Front Line Defenders

11 November 2014

Itai Dzamara was one of the human rights defenders who was attacked

On 10 November 2014, journalist and human rights defender Mr. Itai Dzamara was discharged from hospital a few days after he and human rights lawyer Mr. Kennedy Masiye, along with 9 other demonstrators, were brutally assaulted by police officers during a peaceful and non-violent demonstration at Africa Unity Square in Harare.

Itai Dzamara is a prominent journalist and organiser of the Occupy Africa Unity Square, a sit-in launched in October 2014 to demand accountability from the Zimbabwean government for its reported “failure to satisfy the needs of its people.” Kennedy Masiye is a human rights lawyer affiliated with Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, an organisation promoting the rule of law and a culture of human rights in Zimbabwe.

On the morning of 6 November 2014, Itai Dzamara and his colleagues had gathered at Africa Unity Square in downtown Harare to continue their sit-in. At approximately 11:30 a.m, several police officers arrived at the square and ordered the protesters to disperse. Soon after giving the order, they reportedly started beating those participating at the sit-in with baton sticks.

In the process, more than a dozen officers reportedly singled out Itai Dzamara, prevented him from leaving and started to brutally assault him until he lost consciousness. When human rights lawyer Kennedy Masiye tried to intervene, the police officers turned their batons on him, beating him severely. This was despite the fact that he clearly identified himself as a legal practitioner executing his professional responsibilities to provide legal assistance.

Kennedy Masiye eventually managed to retreat from the police officers, and was left severely injured with a broken arm. As a result of the brutal assault, Itai Dzamara was rushed to Avenue Clinic where he was hospitalised. Two other protesters are reported to have received treatment at the same clinic and were discharged.

As he attempted to file a report, despite his serious condition at Harare Central Police station, Kennedy Masiye was arbitrarily detained while his colleagues struggled to find out his whereabouts, as police attempted to hide his presence at the police station. After he was eventually found and released to his colleagues, police refused to provide a medical examination. Kennedy Masiye collapsed as a result of his injuries and was rushed to a private hospital.

This is not the first time that Itai Dzamara has been targeted by police in connection with the “Occupy Africa Unity Square” campaign. On 4 November 2014, the human rights defender was confronted by riot police at Africa Unity Square as he addressed the public. He was asked to produce a clearance letter for his protest, which he did; but still the police arrested him along with five other protesters and they were taken to a police station. No formal charges were filed against them.

Front Line Defenders is gravely concerned by the repetitive intimidation and use of violence by the Zimbabwean police against Itai Dzamara and other peaceful protesters participating to the Occupy Africa Unity Square campaign in Harare. Front Line Defenders considers the government repression to be a direct result of Itai Dzamara's legitimate and peaceful human rights work.

Listen to Voice of America's interview with Kennedy Masiye below:

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