Police in Zimbabwe used violence to break up a peaceful demonstration held by the Women of Zimbabwe Arise, or WOZA. More than seventy WOZA members were arrested. The demonstration was held in support of a United Nations-sponsored campaign to end domestic violence against women.
Annie Sibanda, a WOZA spokeswoman, told a reporter that when the women began to read a charter on social justice, they were attacked. Ms. Sibanda said some of the women, including six with babies, spent two nights in jail. Altogether, forty women were detained for over forty-eight hours and denied medical treatment. Two women with serious injuries did not receive medical treatment until Friday evening.
In a written statement, the U.S. State Department says the U.S. "condemns the Zimbabwean government's brutal reaction to this peaceful effort of Zimbabwean citizens to exercise their rights." The U.S., says the State Department, "call[s] for the immediate release of those still detained, for access to legal assistance, and for access to medical treatment for those who were injured."
In September, the government of Robert Mugabe suppressed planned marches organized by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions to be held in Harare, Bulawayo, and elsewhere. The demonstrations were called in response to harsh economic conditions in Zimbabwe as well as the lack of access to drugs that fight H-I-V/AIDS.
Georgette Gagnon, deputy Africa director at Human Rights Watch, an independent monitoring group, says, "When Zimbabweans engage in peaceful protest, the government responds with brutal repression. " She says, "The authorities use torture, arbitrary arrest and detention to deter activists from engaging in their right to freely assemble and express their views."
Jeffrey Krill, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, says, "Zimbabwe continues to move in the wrong direction":
"They continue to arrest and detain opposition leaders and their supporters. And then last year they closed down an independent newspaper, showing just how unwilling they are even to accept criticism. So the Zimbabwean government continues to be a real human rights offender on the continent."
In Zimbabwe, says President George W. Bush, the U.S. "is concerned about a leadership that does not adhere to democratic principles."
The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.