On International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances, End Pervasive Practice of Abductions and Enforced Disappearances

ON the occasion of United Nations (UN) International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) urges government to criminalise enforced disappearances, investigate and prosecute all those responsible and take adequate measures to combat this heinous crime.

Commemorated on 30 August every year, United Nations International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances is dedicated to raising awareness that enforced disappearances is a crime and to also honour victims and survivors.

The day also serves as a reminder for states to take measures such as preventing the occurrences of abductions and enforced disappearances, ensuring compensation to victims and making perpetrators accountable.

ZLHR reaffirms its solidarity for all victims and/or 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.

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.”

However, it is worrying that despite complaints being reported to law enforcement agents about incidences of abduction and enforced disappearances, government has sought to dismiss the reports as fake abductions. This attempt to trivialise the commission of a serious crime shows the audacity of Zimbabwean authorities to perpetuate the commission of heinous crimes at whatever cost.

Government has a responsibility to investigate, prosecute and hold perpetrators accountable for committing such heinous acts. 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.

It is alarming that citizens continue to be subjected to such ill-treatment as abductions and enforced disappearances at a time when the world is focusing on containing the Coronavirus pandemic.

Sadly, in March 2017, government rejected some recommendations made by several United Nations member states calling for the ratification of the International Convention on Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearances. These recommendations made during the UN Human Rights Council-led Universal Periodic Review Mechanism would, if fully implemented eradicate the practice of enforced disappearances.

Families of missing persons such as Itai Dzamara, Patrick Nabanyama and Paul Chizuze have the right to know the truth about what happened to their loved ones and this is essential to relieve the suffering caused by the uncertainty concerning their whereabouts.”

In the notable absence of political will to reform laws and institutions fuelling abductions and enforced disappearances, ZLHR calls upon government to;

  • Criminalise enforced disappearances, prosecute all cases of abduction and take adequate measures to prevent this inhuman and degrading treatment;
  • Fully embrace the recommendations to ratify and domesticate the International Convention on Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearances.
  • Ensure full accountability of all perpetrators and guarantee redress and rehabilitation to victims.
  • Allow official visits of UN human rights experts with a view to assessing the human rights situation in the country and particularly to examine some questions relevant to enforced disappearances.

Source: Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights

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