The Harare High Court in Zimbabwe on Tuesday upheld a 30-day ban against protests in the capital. The lawsuit was brought by Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) [official website] on behalf of many organizations, and challenged the ban based on the right to demonstrate [Zimbabwean report] provided for in the country’s Constitution [text]. Although the court rationalized the ban as necessary to keep peace, Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] called for the ban to be lifted [AI report]. Muleya Mwananyanda, AI’s Deputy Director for South Africa, stated Wednesday:
The ruling must be rescinded and the ban lifted as it infringes the fundamental right to freedom of assembly. Police must not be given carte blanche to impose a blanket ban on protests which are protected by the country’s constitution, and Zimbabwe’s international human rights commitments. Instead of outlawing peaceful assemblies, the government would do well to ensure the safety of people who choose to peacefully exercise their right to protest.
The ban is set to end [Reuters report] October 15.
The Zimbabwe government has faced criticism and legal action in the past. Last month Zibwabwe’s High Court struck down [JURIST report] a similar two-week ban on protests that had been issued by the police. In September 2013 the high court ordered the release [JURIST report] of 21 activist members of the opposition party that had been detained for over two years. The following month, Zimbabwe’s highest court criticized [JURIST report] state prosecutors who sought to take legal action against people who insulted President Robert Mugabe. In November 2013 a Zimbabwean magistrate acquitted [JURIST report] a human rights lawyer who was charged with obstructing justice and being unruly to police officers.