BY SILAS NKALA
A COALITION of non-governmental organisations in Africa has urged the continent to end the practice of forced disappearances of their citizens and also ensure that perpetrators are held to account.
The NGOs made the call yesterday when Africa joined the world in commemorating the UN International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearance.
The International Day of Forced Disappearances is commemorated every August 30.
Most African countries are often blamed for State-sponsored violence against its citizens through abduction, torture and forced disappearances as documented by civic organisations.
“Enforced disappearances have been under the radar in Africa for many decades, and victims left forgotten,” said Eva Nudd, legal adviser to REDRESS, a London-based human rights organisation, in a joint statement with African NGOs.
“African States are obliged to prevent and investigate this crime, to bring any perpetrators to justice, search for victims who were subjected to this practice and provide their loved ones with assistance and reparations. African states can’t hide any longer under a cloak of denial.”
Zimbabwe is on the international spotlight following a spate of alleged abductions and torture of civic groups and opposition members ahead of the July 31 protests. Several opposition leaders went into hiding after the arrest of journalists Hopewell Chin’ono and Transform Zimbabwe leader Jacob Ngarivhume, charged for inciting public violence.
The two have been denied bail for over a month. Several activists — including Tawanda Muchehiwa and three MDC Alliance activists that included former Harare West MP Joanah Chimombe — were abducted and dumped after being tortured by suspected State security agents.
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) in a statement yesterday said it reaffirmed its solidarity for all victims and survivors of torture, and their families who may have been indirectly affected by the impact of this barbaric crime.
“Sadly, in 2020, Zimbabwe is marking United Nations International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances at a time when the country is recording abductions of human rights defenders with the latest case being that of Tawanda Muchehiwa, a university student and a resident of Bulawayo,” ZLHR said.
“Recently, the UN disclosed that 49 cases of abductions and torture were reported in Zimbabwe in 2019, without investigations leading to perpetrators being held to account.
“The UN human rights experts called on government 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’ and ‘to bring those responsible to account.”
The ZLHR said it was worried about the increasing cases of torture and abductions where State security agents were implicated and the trend of government describing the reports as fake.
“Government has a responsibility to investigate, prosecute and hold perpetrators accountable for committing such heinous acts,” the human rights lawyers said.
“Failure by government to hold perpetrators accountable, let alone acknowledge the outrageous practice of abductions and enforced disappearances places abductees outside the protection of the law and constitute a serious violation not only of domestic law but of international law too.”