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State must stop abductions

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By Heal Zimbabwe Trust

HEAL Zimbabwe joins the rest of the world in commemorating the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances. The special day is commemorated annually on August 30.

The International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances was passed under resolution 65/209 on December 21, 2010, which expressed great concern on the rising cases of involuntary disappearances.

This culminated in the adoption of the International Convention for the protection of all Persons of Enforced Disappearances, where August 30 was declared as the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances.

The commemoration of this important day serves to remind states on the need to enact specific laws that protect citizens against the crime of enforced disappearance.

This can only be achieved through investigating reports of enforced disappearance and bringing those responsible to justice.

Article 1 of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance highlight that “no one shall be subjected to enforced disappearance”. Enforced disappearances remain a crime that is not only degrading, but generates insecurity among affected persons.

The African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) (also known as the Banjul Charter), a regional human rights instrument is also a tool meant to promote and protect human rights and basic freedoms on the African continent.

Article 4 of the ACHPR highlight that “human rights are inviolable” hence every human being shall be entitled to respect for life and integrity. Further to this, Article 23 of the charter also highlight that “all people shall have the right to national and international peace and security”.

For Zimbabwe, however, the commemoration of this important day is taking place at a time when the country has not brought to book individuals who have in the past used enforced disappearances as a tool to silence human rights.

What is rather disturbing is that besides having international and regional legal instruments that prohibit enforced disappearances, Zimbabwe continues to record a spike in cases of enforced disappearances.

The August 1, 2018 post elections demonstration in Harare, which witnessed the gunning down of six unarmed people by members of the security services, was followed by abductions of prominent political activists.

During the January 2019 demonstrations, the State also used abductions as a tool meant to target activists.

On the eve of the August 16, 2019 MDC Alliance demonstrations, Citizens Manifesto co-ordinator Tatenda Mombeyarara and Blessing Kanotunga, the MDC youth chairperson for Mufakose district, were abducted by unknown assailants.

In the days that followed, several MDC Alliance activists were abducted across the country as well as comedian, Samantha “Gonyeti” Kureya.

What is rather worrisome is the lack of political will by the government to ratify key conventions that speak to issues relating to state obligations in as far as prevention of enforced disappearance of citizens is concerned.

Conventions that Zimbabwe is yet to ratify include the United Nations Convention against Torture or Inhuman or Degrading Treatment (CAT), the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons against Enforced Disappearances as well as the Rome Statute, among others.

To date, pro-democracy activist, Itai Dzamara who was abducted on March 9, 2015, remains unaccounted for. Abductions remain a gross human rights violation that must be condemned as it is not only degrading but barbaric and a bad practice.

Enforced disappearances remain a serious violation of human rights and a crime. Section 53 of the Constitution provides for freedom from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Such fundamental human rights and freedoms are to be enjoyed by every citizen without selective application. The occasion of this important day offers an opportunity for the government to expedite the search for missing persons, particularly Dzamara, whose search was ordered by the High Court.

Heal Zimbabwe implores the State to stop using abductions as a tool to deal with political opponents. Heal Zimbabwe implores government to explore peaceful and non-violent means to address citizens concerns such as dialogue.

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