The 30th of August marks the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances with Amnesty International Zimbabwe calling for genuine investigations and handling of the case of a Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) activist, Nelson Mukwenha, who was reportedly a victim of enforced disappearance and torture on the 26th of August 2023.
In response to the reports of the enforced disappearance and torture allegedly at the hands of security forces, Khanyo Farisè, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Southern Africa said that Zimbabwean authorities were supposed to deeply dig into the incident, make the results public, and seriously criminalise cases of enforced disappearances, torture, and abductions.
“Amnesty International strongly condemns the enforced disappearance and torture of Nelson Mukwenha, allegedly at the hands of Zimbabwe’s security forces. Authorities must conduct a prompt, thorough, impartial, independent, effective, and transparent investigation into Mukwenha’s disappearance and torture. The findings of any investigation must be made public and those suspected to be responsible must be brought to justice in fair trials.
“Everyone, regardless of their political outlook, should be able to freely express themselves and participate in peaceful activism without the fear of abduction or harm. The Zimbabwean authorities must respect, protect, promote, and fulfill the right of everyone to physical security and safety. The Zimbabwean authorities must ensure that enforced disappearances and abductions are treated as extremely serious crimes, and ensure justice and accountability,” said Farisé.
Meanwhile, in relation to this year’s event observation, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said “Impunity compounds the suffering and anguish. Under international human rights law, families and societies have a right to know the truth about what happened. I call on Member States to fulfill this responsibility,” he said.
It was reported that on 26 August 2023, Mukwenha was part of a crowd of people that prevented suspected security officials from abducting Promise Mkwananzi, spokesperson of the CCC, during a press conference. Later that evening, Mukwenha was reportedly picked up by suspected security officials at his home in Highfields, Harare, and was then tortured and dumped in a forest in Mapinga on the outskirts of Harare.
Zimbabwe has an existing history of enforced abductions and disappearances including an incident of 9 March 2015 when Itai Dzamara, an activist and journalist, was abducted by five men while at a barber shop in Harare. He has not been seen since.
On 24 May 2022, Moreblessing Ali was allegedly abducted by an unidentified man following an argument and her mutilated body was found three on 11 June 2022.
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, including arrest, detention, and abduction, when these are part of or amount to enforced disappearances, 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 welcomed the adoption of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance and decided to declare 30 August the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances, observed beginning in 2011.