OutRage! is claiming a legal and moral victory after all charges against the “Mugabe Three” –Chris Morris, Peter Tatchell and Alastair Williams– were dropped at Horseferry Road Magistrates Court, London, on Friday, 10th December.
The vindicated defendants walked free from court, jubilantly displaying placards with the words: “Stop Torture! Arrest President Mugabe!”.
“If the President returns to Britain, we will arrest him again”, said Chris Morris. “Next time, he won’t get away. We’ll make sure that he ends up in detention, just like General Pinochet.”
In court, the magistrate publicly berated the Crown Prosecution Service for its inept mishandling of the case. Legal costs and expenses were awarded to all three defendants.
OutRage! describes the withdrawal of the charges as a humiliating climb-down by the Crown Prosecution Service.
“The charges have only been dropped to spare politicians the embarrassment of hearing us present evidence about crimes against humanity in Zimbabwe, which was a key part of our defence,” said Morris.
“It is a shameful abuse of the criminal justice system that our case has been spiked by diplomats, rather than being heard in court.
“We want to know why the police assisted Mugabe’s get-away and ignored the evidence we presented to them at the scene, which shows that President Mugabe’s government is guilty of grave violations of human rights”, said Morris.
Codefendant Alastair Williams added: “The abandonment of the prosecution confirms that we should never have been charged in the first place. It is a vindication of our citizen’s arrest of President Mugabe.
“The official reason given for dropping the case was ‘insufficient evidence’. But the Crown had lined up 18 police officers to testify against us, and had 15 minutes of film footage from Sky News.
“The real reason was not insufficent evidence, but that the evidence favoured our defence. It did not substantiate the charges against us, and confirmed the legality of our actions.
“The prosecution was axed for the political motive of not embarrassing the police and Government. They were terrified that our trial would have established that torture is illegal under British law, thereby paving the way for the arrest of any torturer who sets foot on British soil”, said Williams.
According to Peter Tatchell, the other defendant in the “Mugabe Three” prosecution:
“This case highlights the double standards of the British Government and legal system. General Pinochet has been arrested for human rights abuses, while President Mugabe is allowed to come and go as he pleases, despite his government’s equally grisly abuse of human rights.
“Mugabe’s human rights record is arguably worse than Pinochet’s: the massacres in Matabeleland, torture of journalists, press censorship, violent suppression of peaceful protests, and his attacks on the gay community.
“It seems that Britain has one rule for left-wing African tyrants and another for right-wing Latin American despots.
“Britain has signed and pledged to uphold the 1984 UN Convention Against Torture, which is enforceable in British law under Section 134 of the 1988 Criminal Justice Act.
“If the Government is unwilling to enforce this legislation in a consistent and uniform manner, perhaps it would be more honest to annul Britain’s ratification of the 1984 Convention and openly tolerate the use of torture by the Mugabe regime.
“What was particularly sickening about Mugabe’s visit to London was that this so-called “socialist” and “Marxist” had come here to go shopping at Harrods, while millions of his fellow Zimbabweans are living in poverty and on the verge of starvation”, said Tatchell.