World churches protest over human rights abuses in Zimbabwe

 The World Council of Churches (WCC) has expressed grave concern over the assault of human rights activists in Zimbabwe, and called on the government in the Southern African country to prosecute those responsible. In an October 28, 2003 letter addressed to Patrick Chinamasa, Zimbabwean Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, the world church body cited violations committed against members of the judiciary and defenders of human rights between January and October 2003. The letter said: "The World Council of Churches is deeply concerned at the deteriorating law and order situation in Zimbabwe. During the year 2003, there [has] been an unprecedented increase in incidents of police harassment and brutality against human rights defenders and members of the Judiciary." The WCC urged the government "to take immediate steps to restore the rule of law and put an end to arbitrary arrests, torture and killings." "The most recent of such incidents took place on the night of 12th October, when Mrs Beatrice Mtetwa, a renowned human rights lawyer, was assaulted by the personnel of the Zimbabwe Republic Police stationed at Borrowdale Police Station. The security personnel have the duty and responsibility to protect the citizens of Zimbabwe," said the letter, signed by Peter Weiderud, Director, Commission of the Churches on International Affairs at WCC. "On behalf of the World Council of Churches, I call on Your Excellency to order an immediate enquiry into the case of Mrs Mtetwa and others who have been the subject of police brutality, and ensure that justice is done to them. Those responsible for such reprehensible acts must be brought before the court of law for trial," Weiderud said. Other victims include Mr Gabriel Shumba (January 2003), Justice Benjamin Paradza (February 2003), Mr Alec Muchadehama (March 2003), Mr Reginal Chidawanyika (June 2003), and Mr Dumisani Kufaruwenga and Mpokiseng Dube (August 2003). The WCC observed in August/September 2003 that "We share the pain and suffering of the people of Zimbabwe as a result of escalating violence and repression of fundamental human rights by the state and groups encouraged and supported by the government. The violence, intimidation, unlawful arrest and torture perpetrated by the police, ruling party militia and other state agents must come to an end." Formally inaugurated in 1948, the WCC is a fellowship of 342 churches in more than 100 countries, in all continents and from virtually all Christian traditions. It enjoys close cooperation from the Roman Catholic Church. Source: CISA

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