The US State Department has condemned the mass roundup of LGBT activists in Zimbabwe in what it has called ‘a pattern of abuse.’
Two truckloads full of riot police rounded up forty-four members of the group Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ) on August 11 and held overnight but all were released without charge the following morning.
Police claimed they were searching for illegal data and offensive materials.
Human rights lawyers who attempted to see the activists while they were in jail were turned away.
US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland condemned the raids in which several people were injured.
Nuland told AFP that the United States "stands in solidarity" with Zimbabwean LGBT activists and other civil society groups.
‘We are deeply concerned when security forces become an instrument of political violence used against citizens exercising their democratic rights,’ Nuland said.
‘We call upon the government of Zimbabwe to end this pattern of abuse and to eradicate the culture of impunity that allows members of the security sector to continue to violate the rights of the Zimbabwean people.’
Zimbabwe has passed laws that define sodomy as any act involving contact between two males that could be regarded as an indecent act – which could in theory include something as simple as hugging or holding hands.
Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe has declared homosexuals to be ‘worse than dogs and pigs’ despite his having served as prime minister under a president who was gay.
Mugabe’s predecessor Canaan Banana was charged with eleven counts of sodomy in 1997 in what he said were trumped up charges by Mugabe.
His wife Janet Banana later confirmed that her husband was gay, while still denying the charges.