Amnesty International Zimbabwe is deeply concerned with the continued enforced disappearances of people in Zimbabwe. People are deprived of liberty and then often subject to enforced disappearance. Even if the deprivation of liberty followed by a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation or by concealment of the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person is for a short period of time, it still amounts to enforced disappearance. 2020 marks five years since the enforced disappearance of Itai Dzamara on 9 March in 2015. Itai remains unaccounted for up to date. People like Rashiwe Guzha, Marceline Dzumbira, Patrick Nabanyama and Paul Chizuze also remain missing and their whereabouts are unknown and yet no one has been held accountable for their disappearances.
On 21 December 2010, by its resolution 65/209 the UN General Assembly expressed its deep concern about the increase in enforced or involuntary disappearances in various regions of the world and by the growing number of reports concerning harassment, ill-treatment and intimidation of witnesses of disappearances or relatives of persons who have disappeared. By the same resolution, the Assembly declared 30 August the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances – although the date had been observed for long in many countries around the world.
Victims of enforced disappearance are people who have literally disappeared from their loved ones and their community. They go missing when state officials (or someone acting with state consent) grabs them from the street or from their homes and then deny it, or refuse to disclose where they are. Sometimes disappearances may be committed by armed non-state actors, like armed opposition groups. And it is always a crime under international law. These victims are often never released and their fate remains unknown. Victims are frequently tortured and many are killed, or live in constant fear of being killed. They know their families have no idea where they are and that there is little chance anyone is coming to help them. Even if they escape death and are eventually released, the physical and psychological scars stay with them. Enforced disappearance is frequently used as a strategy to spread terror within society. The feeling of insecurity and fear it generates is not limited to the close relatives of the disappeared, but also affects communities and society as a whole.
This year we commemorate this day against the backdrop of complex allegations of enforced disappearance as a means of political repression of opposition leaders and human rights defenders in Zimbabwe. Of particular concern is the ongoing
harassment of human rights defenders, relatives of victims, witnesses and legal counsel dealing with cases of enforced disappearances. The alleged abductions of Dr Peter Magombeyi, Samatha Kureya, and the three MDC leaders Joana Ruvimbo Mamombe, Cecilia Chimbiri and Netsai Marova are emblematic cases of the scourge of enforced disapperances that have happened in recent times in Zimbabwe and remain unresolved. On 31 July 2020 Tawanda Muchehiwa was abducted and disappeared from his home and was later found, after a habeas corpus court application. Amnesty International Zimbabwe is concerned with the widespread impunity of those suspected of criminal responsibility for enforced disappearances, as well as the arrest of those who reported that they had been abducted.
Every enforced disappearance violates a range of human rights which include, right to security and dignity of person. The right not to be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment is also violated when someone is disappeared. A disappeared person is also deprived of the right to legal representation as well as the right to a fair trial. The Zimbabwean constitution guarantees the right to a family and this is also violated when someone is disappeared. In other unfortunate cases where the fate of the disappeared person is unknown, the right to life is threatened.
Amnesty International calls on the Zimbabwean authorities to:
· Investigate all cases of enforced disappearance and, if there is sufficient admissible evidence, prosecute all those suspected of criminal responsibility in fair trials before ordinary civilian courts and without recourse to death penalty;
· Make enforced disappearances, either committed by state agents or non-state actors, criminal under domestic law and punishable by appropriate penalties which take into account its extreme seriousness;
· Ratify and adhere to the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance without making any reservation and implement the Treaty under national law;
· Recognize the jurisdiction of the Committee on Enforced Disappearances (CED) to receive and consider communications from or on behalf of victims and other state parties;
· Ensure that survivors and people who have lost their loved ones receive reparation – including compensation, rehabilitation, restitution, satisfaction and guarantees of non-repetition;
· Abrogate any amnesty law or any other measure of impunity, like statute of limitations.
· Promptly ratify the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, signed on 17 July 1998, and implement it into national law.
Amnesty International is a global movement of more than 7 million people who take injustice personally. We are campaigning for a world where human rights are enjoyed by all.