Africa 29.8.2016 02:51 pm

Zim’s failure to find missing activist ‘sends chilling warning’

A man walks past Amnesty International's iconic logo of a candle wrapped in barbed wire inspired by the ancient Chinese proverb: “It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness" ahead of a news conference in Johannesburg, Wednesday, 25 February 2015 by the organisation to highlight human rights abuse. Picture: Werner Beukes/SAPA

A man walks past Amnesty International's iconic logo of a candle wrapped in barbed wire inspired by the ancient Chinese proverb: “It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness" ahead of a news conference in Johannesburg, Wednesday, 25 February 2015 by the organisation to highlight human rights abuse. Picture: Werner Beukes/SAPA

Two days before his abduction, Dzamara addressed a rally where he called for mass action to address the deteriorating economic conditions in Zimbabwe.

Amnesty International (AI) on Monday marked the “International Day of the Disappeared” by issuing a statement warning that Zimbabwe’s continued failure to effectively investigate the enforced disappearance of pro-democracy activist Itai Dzamara sends a chilling message about the security of other government critics.

“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, AI’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 agonising uncertainty they have been subjected to since Itai’s [Dzamara] disappearance.”

Dzamara, a journalist and human rights activist, was abducted on March  9, 2015, by five unidentified men while he was at a barbershop in the Glen View suburb of the capital city, Harare.

Two days before his abduction, Dzamara addressed a rally where he called for mass action to address the deteriorating economic conditions in Zimbabwe.

Witnesses said 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.

AI said 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 August 18, 2015, AI secretary-general, Salil Shetty, and Human Rights Watch’s (HRW) executive director,Kenneth Roth wrote a letter to President Robert Mugabe’s government. Shetty urged Mugabe, 92, and his regime to establish an independent judge-led Commission of Inquiry into the abduction and likely enforced disappearance of Dzamara.

Shetty also called on Zimbabwe to ensure that those suspected to be responsible for Dzamara’s disappearance were brought to justice in fair trials.

On March 13, 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 Organisation (CIO) to investigate Dzamara’s abduction and to report their progress each fortnight to the registrar of the high court.

AI said the reports remained inadequate, providing no substantive details of steps taken by the police except to confirm that investigations into Dzamara’s disappearance were under way.

– African News Agency (ANA)

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