Members of GALZ
Forty-four members of GALZ, Zimbabwe’s leading LGBTI rights group, were arrested and allegedly beaten by riot police on Saturday.
The members of Gays and lesbians of Zimbabwe were attending a meeting at the organisation’s office in Harare for the launch of the GALZ Violations Report and a briefing on the second draft of the new Zimbabwe Constitution.
According to GALZ Director, Chesterfield Samba, four police officers attempted to gain entry into the premises during the meeting.
They then called for back-up and around fifteen riot squad members descended on the office and began to arrest the activists.
“Police assaulted most of the members using baton sticks, open hands and clenched fists before detaining them without charge,” alleged Samba.
Thirty-one men and thirteen women were detained at the Harare Central Police Station. Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights were reportedly denied access to see the detained GALZ members.
GALZ said on Sunday that all forty-four members have now been released and that it was assessing their condition and well being.
The organisation and its members have suffered ongoing harassment from the authorities over the years.
In 2005, President Robert Mugabe called GALZ “repugnant to my human conscience” and offensive “against the law of nature and the morals of religious beliefs”.
He has vowed to ensure that homosexuality remains criminalised in Zimbabwe and that gay and lesbian equality is not included in the country’s new constitution.
Gay sex – along with members of the same sex holding hands, hugging, or kissing – is illegal in Zimbabwe with penalties of up to three years in jail.