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Catholic Human Rights Leader Is Freed in Zimbabwe

June 6, 1986

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) _ The leader of a Roman Catholic human rights group, who was freed from detention on orders by Prime Minister Robert Mugabe, called Friday for a ″new look at human rights in this country.″

Security police on Thursday detained Mike Auret, chairman of the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace, and the organization’s director, Nicholas Ndebele, at commission headquarters.

Both men were released later Thursday after Auret’s wife telephoned Mugabe. The prime minister said he already ordered their release.

At a news conference in the capital of Harare on Friday, Auret thanked Mugabe and said: ″Nicholas and I are free men again.″

The commission acts as a human rights watchdog body.

Auret said of his detention: ″Any innocent person whose freedom is taken away has had his human rights violated. That is what we try to preach.

″Zimbabwe has a better human rights record than many countries, but there are abuses by individuals within the machinery of power here as there are elsewhere.″

Auret noted that Zimbabwe has a bill of rights that guarantees personal liberty but said: ″There are still repressive laws on the statute book from before our independence from Britain six years ago ...

″Perhaps it is time for a rewriting of the constitution with this in mind.″

Zimbabwe became independent in April 1980 after a seven-year guerrilla war against the white minority government of Ian Smith. Mugabe won a landslide election victory to become prime minister.

Auret said he believed he and Ndebele were detained because Home Affairs Minister Enos Nkala suspected the commission gave information about Zimbabwe to the London-based human rights body Amnesty International. Amnesty has often charged Zimbabwe with human rights abuses, particularly in Matebeleland in the south.

Auret said: ″The commission met the minister last December and denied the allegation but I don’t think he believed us.″

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