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Cablegate: Women's Rights Marchers Arrested, Assaulted

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E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM PGOV PREL ASEC ZI
SUBJECT: WOMEN'S RIGHTS MARCHERS ARRESTED, ASSAULTED


1. (SBU) Police in Bulawayo brutally suppressed a
demonstration of Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) on Wednesday,
November 29 as the women's rights group launched their
"People's Charter," a demand for social justice and
affordable basic services. According to WOZA, more than 70
women were arrested; many suffered injuries, including
several babies and an elderly woman. Police ultimately
detained 40 WOZA members at the central police station; they
were scheduled to appear in court on Friday. Access to
lawyers and medical attention has reportedly been restricted.
Embassy recommends the Department issue a statement
condemning the Zimbabwean government,s actions (see proposed
text in paragraph 4).

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A Peaceful Demonstration Turns into Mayhem
------------------------------------------

2. (U) According to WOZA, the demonstration began with 200
WOZA members in Bulawayo's city center. They began to read
aloud from the "People's Charter," a document that seeks to
hold government officials accountable for providing access to
affordable education, housing, medical services, and other
basic needs. Witnesses reported that a group of 30 police in
riot gear moved into the crowd and began beating people at
random. A stampede to escape ensued, during which three
babies were reported to have been injured (one suffering a
broken leg) and an elderly woman received a severe compound
fracture of her ankle.

3. (U) Police reportedly took 51 demonstrators to a nearby
police camp where they were beaten and then released.
Another 40 WOZA members, including six babies, have been held
for two days at the central police station where access to
legal assistance and medical attention was restricted. Those
arrested were to appear before a magistrate in Bulawayo on
Friday on charges under the Criminal Law Act of disturbing
the peace and participating in a public gathering with the
intention of causing public disorder.

------------------
Proposed Statement
------------------

4. (SBU) Embassy recommends that Washington issue a statement
condemning GOZ actions in suppressing the demonstration.
Proposed text follows:

On November 29, Zimbabwean police used violence to breakup a
peaceful demonstration of Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) and
to arrest more than 40 WOZA members. The United States
condemns the Zimbabwean government,s brutal reaction to this
peaceful effort of Zimbabwean citizens to exercise their
rights. We call for the immediate release of those still
detained, for access to legal assistance, and for access to
medical treatment for those who were injured.
DELL

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