The continued failure of Zimbabwe’s authorities to launch an effective investigation into the enforced disappearance of pro-democracy activist, Itai Dzamara, sends a chilling message about the security of other government critics, said Amnesty International today marking the International Day of the Disappeared.
“The absolute failure of the police to account for the enforced disappearance of Itai Dzamara, almost 18 months after he was last seen, speaks volumes about the high levels of impunity that persist in Zimbabwe,” said Tjiurimo Hengari, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Southern Africa.
“The authorities must take action to ensure truth and justice are delivered and free the Dzamara family from the agonizing uncertainty they have been subjected to since Itai’s disappearance.”
Itai Dzamara, a journalist, was abducted on 9 March 2015 by five unidentified men while he was at a barbers’ shop in the Glen View suburb of the capital city, Harare. Two days before his abduction, he addressed a rally where he called for mass action to address the deteriorating economic conditions in Zimbabwe.
Witnesses say that his abductors accused him of stealing cattle before handcuffing him and forcing him into a white truck with concealed number plates and driving off.
Although the men were in plain clothes, Dzamara was well-known to authorities and had previously been abducted, unlawfully detained and severely beaten by state security agents.
The enforced disappearance of government critics continues to be common in Zimbabwe. In 2008, dozens of opposition and human rights activists were forcibly disappeared for weeks in a crackdown. The state repeatedly denied its involvement, but many activists were later found in its custody, while the fate and whereabouts of others remain unknown.
On 18 August 2015, Amnesty International’s Secretary General, Salil Shetty, and Human Rights Watch’s Executive Director, Kenneth Roth wrote a letter, click HERE to download the letter, to President Robert Mugabe’s government urging it to establish an independent judge-led Commission of Inquiry into the abduction and likely enforced disappearance of Itai Dzamara and ensure that those suspected to be responsible for his disappearance are brought to justice in fair trials.
On 13 March 2015, the High Court of Zimbabwe ordered the Minister of Home Affairs, the State Security Minister, the Commissioner-General of Police and the Director-General of the Central Intelligence Organization to investigate Itai Dzamara’s abduction and to report their progress each fortnight to the Registrar of the High Court.
The reports remain inadequate, providing no substantive details of steps taken by the police except to confirm that investigations into Dzamara’s disappearance are underway.