Amnesty International has welcomed the withdrawal of charges against a Zimbabwean activist who was detained for five weeks after he exposed human rights violations in the country’s diamond fields in Marange.
On Thursday, at a magistrate’s court in Harare, government lawyers withdrew all the charges against Farai Maguwu. However, these charges could be reinstated at a later date.
Farai Maguwu was charged in June with “publishing or communicating false information prejudicial to the state” after he reportedly told a diamond trade monitor from the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KP)about the abuses carried out by security forces in the Marange diamond fields.
Farai Maguwu had been detained since his arrest on 3 June and was released on bail on 12 July,.
“While we are thrilled that the charges against Farai Maguwu have been withdrawn, we remain concerned about persistent harassment of human rights defenders in Zimbabwe, including restrictions to their ability to exercise their rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly” said Michelle Kagari Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Africa.
On Friday, Farai Maguwu told Amnesty International: “This case was limiting my freedom. My travel was limited. I had to censor myself… I’m very happy and grateful for the work that Amnesty did [to support me]“
Maguwu was charged under Section 31 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act.
Farai Maguwu’s lawyers have said that he was detained as punishment for revealing human rights violations to a diamond monitor from the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KP), which certifies rough diamonds as being free from links to violence.
Abbey Chikane, the KP monitor on Zimbabwe, stated in his report on the country’s compliance with the KP scheme that he met with Farai Maguwu in the presence of state intelligence officers, raising fears that the activist’s safety had been compromised.
The monitor’s statement also called into question the Kimberley Process’ methods for protecting people who provide information about human rights violations at Zimbabwe’s diamond fields.
Farai Maguwu is the head of the Centre for Research and Development (CRD). The organization has played a key role investigating human rights violations against those working in and living close to the Marange diamond fields as an official observer of the Kimberly Process.