Zimbabwe group receives Amnesty International award

November 17th, 2008 - 4:01 am ICT by IANS  

Berlin, Nov 17 (DPA) Amnesty International honoured the pressure group Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) with its 2008 human rights prize at a ceremony held in Berlin Sunday evening.The German chapter of the international human rights watchdog singled out the organization for its “tireless struggle for human rights” in the southern African nation.

Co-founded in 2003 by Jenni Williams, the group has campaigned for the lifting of restrictions on public gatherings and free speech as well as for improved access to food, medicine and housing.

Its commitment has regularly brought it into conflict with President Robert Mugabe’s heavy-handed police. Williams, 46, has been arrested 35 times and spent more than four months in prison.

“Zimbabwe is in a state of undeclared civil war,” Williams said in remarks prepared for delivery at the awards presentation in the Berliner Ensemble theatre.

“Instead of bullets Mugabe’s regime is using hunger as a weapon against the people of Zimbabwe and at the same time destroying trust in the democratic system of law and justice,” she said.

With more than 35,000 members, WOZA is one of the few organizations that has dared to stand up to Mugabe, whose policies have led to food and cash shortages in Zimbabwe.

Williams and WOZA spokeswoman Magodonga Mahlangu almost didn’t make it to Berlin for the ceremony. They were arrested during a peaceful demonstration in Bulawayo Oct 16 and spent three weeks in prison before a court this week relaxed the strict bail requirements.

The award, worth 10,000 euros ($12,600), is given annually by Amnesty’s German branch to people or organizations that work to promote human rights, often under difficult conditions.

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