Forty-four gay rights campaigners were reportedly arrested in Zimbabwe during a raid over the weekend.
The raid on Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ) headquarters, occurred on Saturday just as the group is preparing to launch a report on persecution LGBTI Zimbabweans suffer.
A statement on the GALZ website alleges that four police officers attempted to gain entry to the building. When they were unable to do so, they then called for back-up. Later, “about fifteen riot squad members” attended the scene and forced entry into the GALZ office. The group also says: “Police assaulted most of the members using baton sticks, open hands and clenched fists before detaining them without charge.”
GALZ staff further charge that human rights lawyers sent on behalf of GALZ to aid the thirty one men and thirteen women detained at Harare Central Police Station were denied access to the detainees.
More information on this comes via allAfrica:
Marufu Mandevere, from the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), told SW Radio Africa that the group had gathered for a workshop on the draft constitution and to launch their “Violations Report”, detailing abuses against GALZ members.
“After the workshop they had a party and that is when police cordoned off their offices. They took almost everyone there to Harare Central Station and detained them without charge,” Mandevere explained.
The article referenced above also accuses the police of being “visibly drunk” when they arrived at the scene.
Police have reportedly denied all accusations of an anti-gay raid being carried out, with Police spokesman James Sabau quoted as saying that the GALZ supporters had instead been taken to the police station for “screening.”
Freedom of association is protected under the current version of the Zimbabwe Constitution, but how far that is honored has remained nebulous, especially when it comes to those things, such as homosexuality, that displease Mugabe’s administration or ruling party. In recent months GALZ has even faced charges of breaking Section 33 of the Criminal Law Act, the law used to make it illegal to insult the office of president, for reprinting a letter by former San Francisco Mayor Willie Lewis Brown, Jr, in which he criticized Mugabe.
Zimbabwe law expressly prohibits sodomy and has built on those provisions to virtually outlaw any kind of same-sex contact that is deemed to be inappropriate.