Arnold Tsunga, Zimbabwean lawyer and founder of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights. He won the 2006 Martin Ennals Award alongside Akbar Ganji of Iran.
At the end of the 1990s, Tsunga gave up practicing as a private lawyer and began to develop human rights programs in Zimbabwe. Fighting against what he describes as "complete corruption of the system of governance", Tsunga sought the realisation of democracy and human rights through a "political transformation".
Tsunga played a pivotal role in the establishment of civil society groups for the protection and promotion of human rights in Zimbabwe. He is the former acting Executive Secretary of the Law Society of Zimbabwe (LSZ) and former National Chairperson of Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights).
The first violent attack on Tsunga came in 2002 when, on 9 March, he was abducted by a group of 20 soldiers. As part of a group of seven people, Tsunga was threatened at gunpoint and physically assaulted in front of a crowd of onlookers. He was then taken into custody and subjected to serious forms of torture. It forced Tsunga to reflect upon the nature of his work, questioning as to whether it was in fact possible to continue working in a state of complete lawlessness.
In September 2002, following MP Roy Beneton's abduction by intelligence officers, Tsunga went to the military detention center to assess Beneton's condition, and was threatened at gunpoint by intelligence officers.
In a struggle against perpetual oppression, a corrupt judiciary and politicized security services, Tsunga developed the ZLHR as a mechanism to provide legal representation to victims of human rights abuses and a protection to human rights defenders. Tsunga worked closely with the international human rights community to not only provide training to lawyers and human rights activists, but extensive documentation of human rights abuses in Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe human rights record continued to erode in 2005, as a government-led campaign of mass evictions and demolitions, left nearly 700 000 people homeless. With media outlets shutting down and political opposition stifled, Tsunga and the ZLHR worked tirelessly to defend these victims and seek justice. The ZLHR advocated on behalf of the victims with the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights, which passed a resolution on Zimbabwe condemning the deterioration of human rights in the country. Tsunga played a vital role in its success, but it would earn him the eternal ire of the Mugabe regime. The Martin Ennals Award made a public announcement in 2005 that Arnold was the runner up for the award.
In 2006, Tsunga came under serious pressure from the Zimbabwean authorities and on 26 January 2006, a soldier came to visit Tsunga at his ZimRights office - however Tsunga was not there. The soldier explained to Tsunga's colleague that a hit squad of the Military Intelligence Corps was monitoring Tsunga's movement and had been ordered to kill him.
The harassment did not stop there. Tsunga became the target of a smear campaign and was arrested on charges of "having broadcasting equipment without a license", but was later released on bail. At the time, Tsunga was a trustee of the Voice of the People (VOP), a Zimbabwean communication network promoting independent broadcasting.
The oppression, however, intensified. Tsunga's home in Mutari soon came under attack. This time, two of Tsunga's employees were abducted and accused of smuggling sugar. Tsunga's home was labeled "a haven for smugglers crossing into Mozambique". It took nine hours for lawyers in Mutari to find Tsunga's employees and negotiate with the military for their release.
A month later, his home in Harare was attacked by six armed policemen who scaled his security fence, again choosing to abduct Tsunga's driver and security guards, who were held incommunicado for four days.
Tsunga's tireless effort would not go unnoticed by the international human rights community. On October 2006, at a ceremony at the Bâtiment des Forces Mortrices in Geneva, Tsunga received the 2006 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders along with Iranian dissident and investigative journalist, Akbar Ganji. Arnold Tsunga, wrote to the Secretariat a few weeks later: “I was pleased that the state agents who tried to harass me two weeks ago whispered among themselves that I have international recognition from Geneva and this made them feel very uncomfortable with themselves”.
Tsunga is now not only a Director at the ICJ but continues to work on a voluntary basis giving advice to human rights organisations working on issues in Zimbabwe and the region.
NEWS ARTICLES & INTERVIEWS
Human Rights Watch Honors Zimbabwean Lawyer (Human Rights Watch) 31 October 2006Arnold Tsunga (Wikipedia)
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