Rights group condemns ‘abduction’ of women politicians in Zimbabwe
May 18, 2020
LAST week’s “abduction” of three women members of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) in Zimbabwe has been condemned by the Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC).
MDC MP Joana Mamombe and Young Assembly leaders Cecelia Chimbiri and Netsai Marova were allegedly abducted, detained and tortured after being arrested on May 14 at a police roadblock following their participation in a protest the previous day.
National Police Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi confirmed the detention at the Harare Central Police Station of the three MDC members who were later taken to an unknown location.
The women said they were tortured and sexual abused ostensibly at the hands of state security agents and later abandoned on a road.
They had been protesting in Harare against what Zimbabweans say has been the government’s poor response to the COVID-19 crisis.
The SALC is calling on the government to order an investigation into the treatment of the women and “ensure that the perpetrators of these acts face accountability for their actions”.
Governments around the world have introduced emergency powers to tackle COVID-19 but there is growing concern that some of these are being exceeded by over-zealous security agencies.
The Executive Director of the Johannesburg-based SALC, Kaajal Ramjathan-Keogh, said: “Where a public health emergency has required states to resort to the introduction of emergency measures to contain the pandemic, states should continue to abide by their obligations under the constitution, national laws and international law.
“All such measures must be publicly declared, be strictly proportionate to the threat to the public caused by the emergency, be the least intrusive means to protect public health and be imposed only for the time required to combat the emergency,” she added.
The human rights group called on the Zimbabwean government to abide by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention’s Deliberation No. 11 on Prevention of Arbitrary Deprivation of Liberty in the context of Public Health Emergencies, which was adopted at the beginning of this month.
On the issue of secret and incommunicado detention, the Working Group views this as “the most serious violation of the norm protecting a person’s right to liberty”.
The Group added: “Arbitrariness is inherent in such forms of deprivation of liberty, as the individual is left without any legal protection.
“Such secret and/or incommunicado detention cannot be part of the public health emergency measures introduced to combat a health-related crisis.”
The SALC also urged the government to ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances.