The United States and the European Union have joined Amnesty International in condemning the recent arrests of LGBT activists in Zimbabwe as harassment and discrimination.

Forty-four activists from the organisation, Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ) were first arrested and allegedly beaten on 11 August as they took part in a peaceful gathering at the NGO’s offices in the capital, Harare. They were released soon after.

On Thursday last week, police again detained and interrogated at least 10 of the same activists before releasing them.

To-date, none of the arrested activists have been charged with any crime. Amnesty noted that the GALZ members had not committed any offence under Zimbabwe law and described the arrests as arbitrary and unlawful.

“This is an outrageous breach of the rights of these activists, who are being harassed for their real or perceived sexual orientation,” said Audrey Gaughran, Amnesty International’s Africa director.

The organisation warned that the latest police action is likely to force LGBTI people in Zimbabwe to go into hiding.

“As well as significantly hampering the work of human rights defenders, these acts of harassment and intimidation by police contribute to a climate of discrimination, harassment and fear for individuals who may be targeted for violence on the basis of their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity,” said Gaughran.

The European Union ambassadorial delegation in Zimbabwe also slammed the arrests. “The harassment and intimidation of human rights defenders, including restrictions on their right to freedom of assembly, is deeply worrying.

“The incident raises particular concern in the context of concluding the constitution-making process as well as in preparing for democratic elections. It is critical that the police respects Zimbabwe’s international human rights obligations and demonstrates impartiality in order to generate necessary faith in these important political processes,” said the EU.

The US Embassy in Harare added its voice to the criticism over the ongoing harassment of the activists. “The targeting and abusive treatment of non-governmental groups by members of the police is a deeply disturbing part of life in Zimbabwe.

“Too often, the Zimbabwe Republic Police becomes an instrument of political violence for use against citizens exercising their democratic rights, rather than maintaining its proper role of the people’s protector and guardian of law and order,” said the embassy.

Meanwhile, The Herald newspaper has reported that Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party has completed its review of the country’s new draft constitution and has amended the document to explicitly outlaw homosexuality and same-sex marriage.

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