"Yes you will be thoroughly beaten. When the police say move you move." — President Robert Mugabe, addressing delegates at the Zimbabwe embassy in Cairo, Egypt, on the arrest, torture and mistreatment of 15 trade union activists in Zimbabwe, September 23, 2006
Human Rights Watch recently issued a report "You Will Be Beaten: The Brutal Suppression of Dissent in Zimbabwe," detailing the atrocities that President Robert Mugabe's police regularly inflict against people opposing his regime. X, whose name is being withheld for his safety, is a citizen of Zimbabwe who came to the United States on a student visa in 1999 and is well acquainted with this fact. His father was involved in the opposition movement against Mugabe, who has been the leader of the ruling party in Zimbabwe since it gained independence in 1980.
When X was young, his father "disappeared," something that frequently happens to members of the opposition; they are generally tortured and then killed. X had been involved with the principal group currently opposing Mugabe, the Movement for Democratic Change and personally knows its leader, Morgan Tsvangirai. X himself was detained, beaten at a rally, and threatened with death by the Central Intelligence Organization (Mugabe's secret police).
In addition, X is also gay, something that has contributed to his political activities, including his involvement with GALZ, the Gay and Lesbian Association of Zimbabwe. In Zimbabwe, being gay is considered a "Western disease," and men who are even suspected of being gay are subjected to persistent discrimination and physical and emotional abuse, and are ridiculed and condemned by teachers, priests, and other members of the community. X was once arrested simply for being in public with another man who dressed flamboyantly.
Because of this, when X was no longer able to afford to continue school in the fall of 2005, he felt it was too dangerous for him to return to Zimbabwe. Instead, he applied for asylum through Immigration Equality, an association that provides legal services for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people who are persecuted in their own countries and wish to remain in the United States. White & Case has provided support for Immigration Equality's work for a number of years.
Jennifer Co, an Intellectual Property associate in New York, became involved in his case because of her ongoing interest in human rights in Africa and represented him in his hearing before the US Department of Justice's New York Asylum Office. After the hearing and then the submission of additional documents, including articles from The New York Times and Reuters reporting that Morgan Tsvangirai had been brutally beaten and denied counsel and medical attention after a peaceful protest, the asylum office granted X asylum, allowing him to remain in the United States.
Joanne Jackson, Anne Marie Musto and Eric Leibowitz all assisted with this matter at different stages of the process.
Though she is thrilled with the decision, Jennifer is most excited for X, and does not want too much made of her work: "The real success belongs to him."