12 August 2011

Zimbabwe: Activist Farai Maguwu 'Humbled' By Top Human Rights Prize

Zimbabwean activist Farai Maguwu, who has campaigned for the protection of human rights in the Chiadzwa diamond fields, says he is very 'humbled' after being awarded a top international human rights prize.

Maguwu has been awarded the Alison Des Forges Award by international organisation Human Rights Watch for "his tremendous courage in exposing abuses in Zimbabwe's diamond fields and working to end rampant violations of human rights throughout the region." The prize celebrates the "valour of individuals who put their lives on the line to protect the dignity and rights of others."

As director of the Center for Research and Development (CRD), Maguwu has spent the last four years documenting horrific abuses taking place in the controversial diamond fields, where murder, torture and forced labour are continuing. Maguwu has previously partnered with Human Rights Watch researchers to document the abuses, all at the hands of the ZANU PF controlled military.

Maguwu's evidence has been key to the call by civil society groups for a ban on Zimbabwean diamonds to remain in place, until the human rights abuses at Chiadzwa end. But Maguwu has not escaped the anger of ZANU PF, who are benefiting directly from Chiadzwa's bloody diamonds.

Last year in May, Maguwu's home and offices were raided and he was arrested on charges of providing "false information" about the killings and torture by the military at Chiadzwa. He was imprisoned for more than a month and denied medical care as a form of punishment. Police also illegally transferred him to various police cells with deplorable conditions, even though he suffered from a serious health condition. Maguwu was only released in July and was finally cleared of all charges against him in October.

Maguwu told SW Radio Africa on Friday that he is "humbled and very encouraged that the work we are doing is recognised," saying such recognition "brings inspiration to keep going."

"There are times when you feel lonely and isolated, especially when the work is misconstrued and when there is no one speaking for you," Maguwu said.

He also explained that the four years of work uncovering the abuses in the Marange region have been very difficult, describing it as "frustrating that the same issues are still there all this time later." But he added that this will not stop the CRD from continuing their work.

"We don't want to make this a long term business. But our work will only end when the people of Marange have their human rights restored to them," Maguwu said.

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