Abduction, torture used to repress protests in Zimbabwe

Peaceful Assembly

Authorities in Zimbabwe have begun to use more severe methods of curtailing the right to freedom of peaceful assembly. Whereas previously, police typically arrested and detained protestors, in recent months protesters and those planning or coordinating protests were abducted and tortured by unknown people, who are however believed to be state security agents. Those abducted and tortured during this period included Kudakwashe Kambakunje of the National Vendors' Union, human rights defender and campaigner Patson Dzamara and Ishmael Kauzani of protest movement Tajamuka. Campaigners are disturbed that the state has deepened its repression by moving away from openly arresting protesters, instead using surreptitious tactics including abduction and torture to prevent citizens from freely assembling and highlighting their grievances.

The use of torture on citizens is unacceptable in any constitutional democracy and has the effect of completely paralysing citizens' movements due to fear of similar action being taken against them. Activists are also concerned that in all cases of abduction and torture of protesters the police have not made any meaningful efforts to investigate the cases and bring the perpetrators to book. This dynamic reinforces fears that abductions and instances of torture were state-sponsored. In response to Patson Dzamara's abduction and torture, civil society group Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights commented that:

'The complete lack of accountability of those responsible for perpetrating violations against other HRDs [Human Rights Defenders] is of special concern given the longstanding and pervasive culture of impunity in Zimbabwe.'

The Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP) said that:

'ZPP maintains that perpetrators of these heinous acts should be brought to book and citizens’ right to personal security must be respected.'

Expression

As the infighting within the ruling ZANU PF party continues, president Robert Mugabe has consistently warned party members against using social media to air their grievances. In the latest such warning in November, Mugabe told one of his ministers, Professor Jonathan Moyo, to stop using social media to attack other members of the party. Professor Moyo is an avid user of Twitter and has often used this platform to air his disagreements with other party members including the Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa. Even after this warning, Professor Moyo continued to tweet as he had previously.