Heal Zimbabwe joins the rest of the world in commemorating the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances. This 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 UN defines an enforced disappearance as when “persons are arrested, detained, or abducted against their will or otherwise deprived of their liberty by officials of different branches or levels of Government, or by organized groups or private individuals acting on behalf of, or with the support, direct or indirect, consent or acquiescence of the Government, followed by a refusal to disclose the fate or whereabouts of the persons concerned or a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of their liberty, which places such persons outside the protection of the law.” Enforced disappearances remain a gross human rights violation that must not find room and expression in countries such as Zimbabwe that have constitutions that provide for the enjoyment of fundamental human rights and freedoms.
The commemorations for this year in Zimbabwe are taking place against a background where abducted pro-democracy activist, Itai Dzamara’s whereabouts remain unaccounted for. The abduction of Dzamara is not the only recent case of enforced disappearances. From 2015 to date there has been a marked increase in cases of enforced disappearances. During the peaceful protests that rocked the country from 2016 to date, several human rights activists and opposition party supporters have been abducted.
On 29 June 2017, Fanuel Kaseke, a political science student at the University of Zimbabwe (UZ) was abducted by unidentified people only to be released on 4 July 2017. Kaseke was accused of inviting MDC-T youths to participate in a demonstration held at the UZ. The list of enforced disappearances to date among others include Ishmael Kauzani, a courageous pro-democracy activist, who was abducted and severely assaulted on the night of December 1, 2016 by unknown men who accused him of being a member of the pressure group Tajamuka. Kerina Gweshe Dewah, the MDC-T Harare Provincial Vice Chairperson, was also abducted by 18 unknown armed men from her Glen View home and Gift Ostallos Siziba a human rights activist was also abducted during the National Electoral Reform Agenda (NERA) demonstration in Harare in 2016.
As the world commemorate this day, the Zimbabwean Government must use the occasion of this year’s commemorations to stop using enforced disappearance as a tool to silence citizens and adhere to the principle of upholding human rights and freedoms. The Government must also update the nation on the progress made in the search for missing human rights activist, Itai Dzamara.