Amnesty International’s new leader, South African Kumi Naidoo, said his first act was writing to Zimbabwe’s next president about the disappearance of activist Itai Dzamara.
His focus on Dzamara, who was abducted by suspected state agents in 2015 under Zimbabwe former president Robert Mugabe, puts further pressure on the government of President Emmerson Mnangagwa, Mugabe’s former enforcer, to acknowledge past abuses.
Mnangagwa, who came to power as a result of a military intervention that topped Mugabe, is facing court action from the MDC Alliance, which disputes his election victory last month.
Naidoo said he wanted to transform the organisation into something “bigger, bolder and more inclusive”.
In a Thursday press release, Naidoo set out his vision for human rights as he began his tenure visiting Johannesburg in his native South Africa.
“Our world is facing complex problems that can only be tackled if we break away from old ideas that human rights are about some forms of injustice that people face, but not others. The patterns of oppression that we’re living through are interconnected,” said the Durban-born Naidoo.
“You cannot talk about the climate change crisis without recognising that it is also an inequality and race issue; you can’t address sexual discrimination without recognising that it is bound up in the economic exclusion of women; and you can’t ignore the fact that people’s civil and political rights are often suppressed exactly when they are trying to demand basic economic justice.”
The organisation has repeatedly warned that we are living through some of the most divisive times in modern history, with prominent leaders offering a nightmarish vision of society blinded by hatred and fear.
“Only if we come together under the common values that unite us, like human rights, can we overcome this adversity,” he added.