End human rights abuses: UN experts


Sindiso Mhlophe

UNITED Nations (UN) human rights experts yesterday called on Zimbabwe to immediately end a reported pattern of disappearances and torture, saying they appear to be aimed at suppressing protests and dissent.

The call comes after three MDC youth leaders, Joanna Mamombe, Cecilia Chimbiri and Netsai Marova were allegedly abducted and tortured by State security agents after having participated in a flash demonstration in

Harare recently despite the obtaining national lockdown introduced to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. It also comes as Home Affairs minister Kazembe Kazembe recently dismissed that the three youth leaders were abducted, saying that preliminary investigations by the police show that the alleged abduction and torture was stage-managed.

The experts, who include the special rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman treatment or punishment, Nils Melzer and special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression Clement Nyaletsossi Voule, who visited Zimbabwe in September last year, said the charges against the three women should be dropped.

“Targeting peaceful dissidents, including youth leaders, in direct retaliation for the exercise of their freedom of association, peaceful assembly and freedom of expression is a serious violation of human rights law,” the experts said.

The experts further called on Zimbabwean authorities to “urgently prosecute and punish the perpetrators of this outrageous crime, and to immediately enforce a policy of zero tolerance for abductions and torture throughout the country” to ensure the effective protection of women against sexual violence and to bring those responsible to account.

The experts expressed grave alarm over concerns that this was not an isolated instance, highlighting that in 2019 alone, 49 cases of abductions and torture were reported in Zimbabwe, without investigations leading to perpetrators being held to account.

“Enforced disappearances of women often involve sexual violence and even forced impregnation, with enormous harm inflicted not only on their physical health and integrity, but also in terms of the resulting psychological damage, social stigma and disruption of family structures,” the experts said.

“Under the absolute and non-derogable prohibition of torture and ill-treatment, which includes enforced disappearance and violence against women, Zimbabwe must take all measures in its power to prevent such abuse, to investigate suspected violations, and to bring any perpetrators to justice,” the experts added.

They also urged the government to allow official visits of UN human rights experts with a view to assessing the human rights situation in the country.

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