Geneva, 1st October 2004
The aspect that he was released on bail indicates that there is a prima facie case against Biti and any defences he has are best left to the courts to address.
1.3.Ms. Trudy Stevenson, MP for Harare North
Ms. Stevenson said that, on 14 February 2003, St. Valentine’s Day, a “Women for Peace and Love” march was organised and roses were handed out. Ms. Stevenson was not marching with the other women, but waving a rose at them. She was arrested by riot police together with other women, but separated from them and taken to another police station where she was accused of having organised the march which she denied. She called her lawyer who came to the station. She was eventually released after police had warned her that the next time she would suffer.
Checks indicate that there is no record to this effect. Stevenson could have just been questioned without any statement having been recorded. The march was illegal in terms of the law.
Ms. Stevenson reported further that, in November 2002, she was arrested during the Cricket World Cup after she and others had handed over a petition to the Namibia High Commissioner, protesting against the Namibian team playing in the matches. When leaving the place, some participants raised placards and then dispersed. Later that day, she received a phone call from police, ordering her to come to the police station in relation with a demonstration. She went there and was questioned in different rooms, urging her to produce the petition. When the lawyer told her that she need not produce the petition, police let her go.
Stevenson could have just been called for an interview to establish whether she had committed an offence and let go. Calling in people for question is routine when a crime has been committed and it is necessary to clarify certain issues. This does not amount to an arrest. An arrest is deprivation of liberty.
In 2003, Ms. Stevenson was summoned to the Police G.H. She went with her lawyer, unaware of the reason for the summons. A letter was presented to her, purportedly written by her, ordering the Mayor of Harare to provide free council accommodation to an MDC police officer who was supposedly a resident in her constituency. She managed to prove that the letter was a forgery and was released without charge.
The police does not have any records of this matter. In any case such maters are usually dealt with at station level.
Finally, Ms. Stevenson reported that in the week prior to the mission, the NGO Women in Parliament Support Unit (WIPSU), a non-political organisation which is open to all women irrespective of political affiliation, wanted to organise three workshops in her constituency. The first, on Monday 22 March 2004 in Hatcliffe Community Hall, was abruptly broken up by police on the grounds that police permission was necessary for her to speak and to open the workshop. The two women facilitators were interrogated and one of them was taken to the police station, threatened with violence and harassed for about 30 minutes. The participants were chased away. WIPSU and Ms. Stevenson decided to halt the programme until the issue was clarified with the police. Ms. Stevenson affirms that her credibility has suffered just as campaigning for the 2005 elections is beginning.
Checked with Borrowdale police station under whose jurisdiction the area falls and they do not have any record to this effect. It must however be noted that non-governmental organisations have a tendency of organising political meetings under the guise of human rights workshops to avoid the process of notifying the police as required under POSA.
The police memorandum of 8 March 2004 only provides information on an incident that occurred in July 1998 where it was established that a report made against Ms. Stevenson (tearing down electoral posters) had been false and hence there was no need for prosecution.