ZIMBABWE Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) strongly condemns the violation of the rights of human rights defenders (HRDs), who were abducted and tortured by unidentified men on Friday 18 November 2016 following an organised ambush.
Source: Unacceptable persecution of human rights defenders – The Zimbabwean 19.11.2016
According to information gathered by ZLHR, unidentified armed men blocked vehicles in which some HRDs including Dr Patson Dzamara were travelling in, during the early hours of Friday 18 November 2016 in Harare.
Some of the HRDs who were with Dzamara fled in the mayhem and the armed men proceeded to blindfold him and bundled him into a truck before setting the HRDs’ vehicles ablaze.
Dzamara was assaulted on the back of the head and all over his back with spikes which had been thrown in front of his vehicle before being driven to a place which he strongly suspects to be Lake Chivero.
Throughout his detention in the said truck, Dzamara had a gun stuck to his neck.
The pro-democracy campaigner, whose brother Itai is still missing after he was abducted from his Harare home on 09 March 2015, was warned that he had not learnt from the fate of his missing brother and was told that; “Hauna kudzidza pane zvatakaaita kumukoma wako manje nguva yekudzidza yakwana,” loosley translated to mean; “You haven’t learnt and taken heed of how we treated your brother and now your time to learn is upon you”.
The unidentfied men spent some time talking to a man whom they referred to as ‘Boss’ inquiring whether to proceed with an option one or option two and during their consultation with the ‘Boss’ they indicated that they had containers and cotton but no ‘catalyst.’
Dzamara suspected that the unidentified men intended to throw him in Lake Chivero but they eventually tied up his hands and dumped him naked near Snake Park in Norton and along the Harare-Bulawayo highway after tearing up all his clothes and further assaulting him.
Dzamara managed to crawl to the Harare-Bulawayo highway, where well-wishers eventually rescued him and assisted to connect him to one of his family members who took him to a local medical facility for treatment to injuries sustained from the assault and torture.
There are three other HRDs whose whereabouts are still unaccounted for following the disturbing violence this morning.
ZLHR condemns the inhuman treatment of these HRDs, which was clearly meant to curtail them from leading or participating in an anti-government protest which they were organising as legitimate pro-democracy campaigners.
It is shocking that such barbaric acts have been committed just some few weeks after the government attempted to paint a rosy picture of the human rights situation in Zimbabwe at the United Nations Human Rights Council led Universal Periodic Review Process in Geneva.
Perpetrators of torture and abduction must understand that torture and enforced disappearances are an outdated, inhumane, and ultimately ineffective practice that ruins the lives of innocent people.
ZLHR is concerned about the violation of the HRDs right to freedom of movement, from torture, degrading and inhumane treatment, dignity and the right to property as provided for in the Constitution of Zimbabwe and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as a range of other international treaties to which Zimbabwe is a State Party,
ZLHR urges state and non-state actors and the government, which have for years been fingered and held accountable in such acts of persecution of HRDs to observe these basic human rights in the interest of upholding the rule of law.
ZLHR believes that citizens should be allowed to enjoy their rights and be free to exercise their rights in their country of origin for social, political and economic growth to be achieved.
It is our belief from experience that Dzamara and some of his colleagues were treated like this due to them being HRDs who have challenged the state and the government’s violation of human rights.
The continued harassment of HRDs, who are exercising their rights, is simply unacceptable and should cease immediately.
Silencing those who criticise the government for presiding over the suffering being endured by citizens will not bring stability to the country.
The complete lack of accountability of those responsible for perpetrating violations against other HRDs is of special concern given the longstanding and pervasive culture of impunity in Zimbabwe.
ZLHR reminds the government that it has legal obligations under several international and African human rights treaties, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), which it needs to respect.
ZLHR calls upon the Minister of Home Affairs, Commissioner-General of Zimbabwe Republic Police to bring to account those persons responsible for the abduction, and torture of the HRDs and the violation of their fundamental rights because ignoring it will perpetuate impunity and reinforce the belief that the perpetrators of such heinous crimes are above the law.
Therefore, ZLHR urges the government to;
Carry out an immediate, thorough and impartial investigation into the abduction and torture of the HRDs with a view to publishing the results of the probe and bringing those responsible to justice in accordance with international standards.
Take all necessary measures to guarantee the physical and psychological integrity and security of these HRDs.
Cease targeting HRDs and guarantee in all circumstances that they are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without any fear of reprisals.
In conclusion, the Southern African Development Community to demonstrate a renewed commitment to protect human rights in the region through deploying an independent investigative mission to assess the deteriorating human rights situation in Zimbabwe.