Heal Zimbabwe joins the rest of the world in commemorating the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances. The special day is commemorated annually on the 30th of August. The International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances was passed under resolution 65/209 on 21 December 2010 which expressed great concern on the rising cases of involuntary disappearances. This culminated into the adoption of the International Convention for the protection of all Persons of Enforced Disappearances where 30 August was declared as the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances.
The commemoration of this important day serves to remind states on the need to enact specific laws that protect citizens against the crime of enforced disappearance. This can be achieved through investigating reports of enforced disappearance and bringing those responsible to justice. Article 1 of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance highlight that “no one shall be subjected to enforced disappearance”. Enforced Disappearances remain a crime under international laws and as such perpetrators of enforced disappearances must be apprehended. The African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) (also known as the Banjul Charter), a regional human rights instrument outlaws degrading treatment of any human being on the African continent. Article 4 of the ACHPR highlight that “human rights are inviolable” hence every human being shall be entitled to respect for life and integrity. Further to this, Article 23 of the charter also highlight that “all people shall have the right to national and international peace and security”. Section 53 of the Constitution provides for Freedom from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Such fundamental human rights and freedoms are to be enjoyed by every citizen without selective application.
For Zimbabwe however, the commemoration of this important day is taking place at a time when there is dark cloud hanging over the country as the state has gone all out in ensuring that its critics are silenced through the use of enforced disappearances, torture and abductions. The recent case is that of Tawanda Muchehiwa, nephew to Zimlive Editor, Mduduzi Mathuthu who was abducted by state agents and was subjected to torture and all sorts of degrading for three days. The Muchehiwa case is not the only case where enforced disappearances have been used. On 13 May 2020, MDC Alliance Legislator, Joana Mamombe, Vice Chairperson, Cecelia Chimbiri and the party’s Deputy Organising Secretary,Netsai Marova were abducted by alleged state agents. Of concern however that is even when there is overwhelming evidence that the enforced disappearances are state sponsored, perpetrators are never brought to book. A case in point is the abduction of Muchehiwa which was captured on camera. Of greater concern is the lack of political will by the state to commit and adhere to international and regional legal instruments that prohibit enforced disappearances. This is aptly demonstrated by the state’s reluctance to ratify key conventions ratify that speak to issues relating to state obligations in as far as prevention of enforced disappearance of citizens is concerned. Conventions that Zimbabwe is yet to ratify include the United Nations Convention against Torture or Inhuman or Degrading Treatment (CAT), the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons against Enforced Disappearances as well as the Rome Statute among others.
The occasion of this year’s commemoration of this important day in Zimbabwe offers an opportunity for the Government to account for Itai Dzamara whose search was ordered by the High Court. Heal Zimbabwe implores the state to stop using enforced disappearances as a tool to deal with political opponents. In light of the growing discontent in the country under the #ZimbabweLivesMatter banner, Heal Zimbabwe implores government to find peaceful and non-violent means to address citizens concerns such as dialogue.