Responding to news that Zimbabwean author and activist Tsitsi Dangarembga and fellow protester Julie Barnes were each convicted for “inciting violence”, handed a six-month suspended sentence for participating on the 31 July 2020 protest against economic hardship, and fined, Lucia Masuka, Executive Director of Amnesty International Zimbabwe, said:
The conviction of Tsitsi Dangarembga and Julie Barnes for fighting for political reforms and a better country for themselves and their fellow Zimbabweans is a travesty of justice
Lucia Masuka, Executive Director of Amnesty International Zimbabwe
“The conviction of Tsitsi Dangarembga and Julie Barnes for fighting for political reforms and a better country for themselves and their fellow Zimbabweans is a travesty of justice. The conviction and sentence send a clear and chilling message that there is no space for dissenting views in Zimbabwe, and that anyone who dares to freely express themselves will face persecution.
Authorities must stop targeting opponents and critics with prosecution and long pre-trial detentions
“The Zimbabwean authorities must uphold the rule of law and create an environment where people like Tsitsi Dangarembga and Julie Barnes can freely exercise their freedom of expression without any fear. Authorities must stop targeting opponents and critics with prosecution and long pre-trial detentions. They must end their relentless harassment and intimidation of human rights defenders and activists who have committed no crime other than to demand that the government deliver better services to the people of Zimbabwe.
“It is not a crime for people to exercise their right to protest peacefully, and Tsitsi Dangarembga and Julie Barnes are not criminals. Authorities must end the criminalizing of protests.”
Both Tsitsi Dangarembga and Julie Barnes were arrested in July 2020 after they marched in the streets of Harare, holding banners demanding reforms of the country’s institutions. They were later released on bail and their trial has been ongoing for over two years until they were convicted on 29 September.
The right to protest is under threat across all regions of the world. Amnesty International’s new global campaign “Protect the Protest” is challenging attacks on peaceful protest, standing with those targeted and supporting the causes of social movements demanding human rights change.