The past two weeks have seen a series of mass arrests and imprisonments of gays and lesbians in Zimbabwe. The first occurred on August 13, followed by a second raid by police on August 20. Many of those arrested suffered serious injuries, were detained without charges and saw family members interrogated and harassed.
Last week police officers—some visibly intoxicated—stormed the offices of Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ) in the capital city of Harare. They had no warrants or probable cause, only the claim they were looking for “offensive” materials—but still managed to arrest 44 GALZ members.
“The police action is a blatant violation of the basic human rights of these individuals. They have not committed any crime under Zimbabwean law,” said Amnesty International’s Audrey Gaughran. “These acts of harassment and intimidation by police contribute to a climate of discrimination, harassment and fear.”
Today the State Department issued a strong rebuke against authorities in the African nation:
“The United States stands in solidarity with Zimbabwe’s civil society, including LGBT activists. We are deeply concerned when security forces become an instrument of political violence used against citizens exercising their democratic rights,” read a statement from State Department spoksewoman Victoria Nuland. “We call upon the Government of Zimbabwe to end this pattern of abuse and to eradicate the culture of impunity that allows members of the security sector to continue to violate the rights of the Zimbabwean people.”