Abel Chikomo – court acquittal not worth celebrating

via Human rights activist says his court acquittal not worth celebrating | SW Radio Africa by Mthulisi Mathuthu   November 27, 2013 

Human rights activist Abel Chikomo, who was acquitted last week on charges of running an ‘unregistered’ organisation has said his acquittal is ‘not a victory worth celebrating’ because the oppressive system is still intact. Chikomo, who is the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum Executive Director, was acquitted Friday after a magistrate found that there was ‘absolutely’ no case against him.

Speaking on SW Radio Africa’s Cutting Edge programme, Chikomo said the state had ‘achieved its goal of obstructing my work’ because he had lost the ‘bulk’ of his time defending himself.

Chikomo was arrested in February 2011 and since then his trial suffered four false starts, with the state at one time dropping charges against him. He said his trial was part of what he called a ‘grand, calculated system of attack on civil rights activists.’

On Tuesday Beatrice Mtetwa, who was also acquitted in another case, told SW Radio that her trial was a ‘deliberate persecution’ meant to incapacitate her ahead of the July 31st election. As in Chikomo’s case a magistrate found that there was no case against Mtetwa. Both cases were widely seen as part of the judicial harassment of human rights activists.

Chikomo said that it was futile to celebrate his acquittal because as far as he was concerned more cases are likely to be brought to court in future. He said there was now a ‘deep culture of paranoia’ whereby the state will seek to ‘make an example of anybody whom it perceives to be an enemy’. According to Chikomo the police are abusing the criminal justice system by ‘dragging people to court to be investigated instead of being tried’.

In his ruling magistrate Elijah Makomo castigated the police for taking Chikomo to court when there was ‘absolutely’ no case against him.

Chikomo was facing accusations of conducting a survey on transitional justice, without registration, as required by the law.The state also alleged that he instructed two of his subordinates to ‘unlawfully’ source people’s recommendations on what kind of transitional justice they would prefer in the country.