Heal Zimbabwe is dismayed by the denial to remove Heal Zimbabwe Executive Director, Rashid Mahiya from routine remand. Mahiya was in February 2019 charged with plotting to overthrow President Emerson Mnangagwa’s government as defined in Section 22 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act.
High Court judge Justice Moses Foroma then released Mahiya, on USD$1 000 bail in March 2019 and since then, Mahiya has been on routine remand. As part of his bail conditions, Mahiya was ordered to report twice a week, surrender his passport at Harare Magistrate court, and not interfere with state witnesses and to continue residing at his given residential address. During a trial on 15 January 2020, the Magistrate refused to remove Mahiya on routine remand citing that the charges facing Mahiya were serious and hence did not warrant such a procedure. The case was postponed to the 27th of March 2020 and Mahiya was advised to apply for a review on the need to be removed on routine remand at the High court.
Heal Zimbabwe notes that the refusal to remove Mahiya on routine remand creates a cloud of uncertainty within civil society in as far as human rights work is concerned. This will directly impact on the operations of the affected individual and that of Heal Zimbabwe Trust. Mahiya has spent a lot of time in courts diverting him from exercising his internationally recognized right to promote and protect human rights enshrined under the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders. Worrying is the fact that the incessant postponements of the trial of Mahiya also reveal the state’s inability to furnish the courts with adequate evidence incriminating Mahiya on the said charges. Heal Zimbabwe also views the denial to remove Mahiya on routine remand as an exercise meant to frustrate Mahiya in his fight for democracy and human rights as a human rights defender.
Long periods of further routine remand may also unnecessarily inconvenience the Mahiya and everyone else involved in the case including key witnesses. Further to this, long periods of routine remand also erode citizens’ trust in the judiciary. Added to this, international best practices on people awaiting trial dictate that justice must be served timely to avoid interference and hesitancy on the part of the judiciary. Article 14 (3c) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1966 stipulates that people awaiting trial must “be tried without undue delays”.
In light of the above, Heal Zimbabwe implores the state to unconditionally drop all charges against Mahiya and create a conducive environment for human rights defenders to operate. The authorities must also guarantee the right to free trial for Mahiya including the right for him to be removed from routine bail.