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Concern grows over missing MDC trio

by Staff reporter
15 May 2020 at 08:24hrs | Views
THERE are rising fears that three MDCAlliance youth leaders who went missing this week were abducted, amid demands by the opposition party, civil society and the international community for their immediate release.

According to both public and private media reports, police spokesperson Paul Nyathi on Wednesday confirmed that MDC Youth Assembly vice-chairperson Cecilia Chimbiri, secretary for policy and Harare West legislator Joanna Mamombe as well as youth deputy organising secretary Netsai Marova had been arrested for participating in an MDC-Alliance hunger demonstration in Harare's Warren Park suburb.

However, yesterday the police, through their Twitter account, said the three were not in their custody.

Nyathi told Zimbabwe Independent last night that he never revealed any names on Wednesday.

"I never gave any names, but instead I said we were waiting for the full facts from Harare to confirm who had been arrested. I just told journalists that there was an incident in Warren Park and police were attending to it. My wish is that they be found so that we all know exactly what happened," he said.

Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), representing the trio, said they had failed to trace them after the arrest, classifying it as an enforced disappearance.

ZLHR yesterday filed a habeas corpus application seeking to compel the police to investigate and determine the whereabouts of the three.

"To escalate blatant violations of rights in constitution - Section 50 (accessing lawyers, food, etc) Section 86(3) on rights that cannot be limited even during Lockdown, @ZLHRLawyers have placed @PoliceZimbabwe, Zim National Army *in mora*, *Habeas Corpus* application is being filed," ZLHR executive director Roselyn Hanzi said in a tweet.

"Habeas corpus is an application made to compel those illegally holding or detaining anyone to bring that person or their body to a ‘court of law' within a specified time. It is provided in Section 50(7) and Section 86(3) (f) of the constitution."

The governments of the United States of America, Canada and the United Kingdom as well as the European Union expressed concern over the disappearance of the three opposition youth leaders.

"Concerned to hear lawyers still not told of whereabouts of three female MDC officials reportedly arrested in Harare. Urge authorities to use their resources to locate urgently in line with security services' obligation to act at all times in line with Zimbabwe's law and constitution," the British embassy said.

"We are worried about the safety of the three female MDC officials who were reported missing last night. We call on authorities to investigate and to assist their lawyers and families locate them," the embassy of Canada wrote.

"Three @MDCZimbabwe officials are missing since yesterday after protesting food shortages. We are concerned and urge police to locate them. We hope they are safe and sound," the US embassy said in a tweet.

The EU delegation also added its concerns, saying: "We are concerned that three female MDC officials remain missing after they were reportedly arrested in Harare yesterday. We urge authorities to swiftly and, in line with constitutional and legal obligations, assist lawyers and relatives to establish their whereabouts and wellbeing".

Zimbabwe has a track record of abductions perpetrated by members of the state, with Itai Dzamara who was abducted in Glen View in 2015, still missing.

Zimbabwe Peace Project national director Jestina Mukoko, who was abducted and later resurfaced in police custody in 2008, said the government's silence raises suspicion of another state-sanctioned disappearance.

"With government silent on the matter, the incident raises profound concerns that this could be just another suspected statesanctioned enforced disappearance of dissenting voices, given the country's record of unsolved cases of missing activists," Mukoko said.

"In addition, the incident can only serve to further polarise an already agitated society and may result in deepened conflict as the country grapples with multiple problems, among them political volatility, economic meltdown, and the Covid-19 pandemic.

"The constitution is clear on the procedures to be followed during an arrest and these include the law enforcement's obligation to treat suspects with respect and to be brought before a court of law within 48 hours."

The MDC-Alliance Youth Assembly national spokesperson Stephen Chuma said there was no iota of doubt that the trio were being illegally held incommunicado by the state.

"There is every reason for us to believe that the state is responsible for the forced disappearance of our female comrades especially given that all of the trio unambiguously indicated that they were taken to Harare Central Police Station soon after what was perceived to be an arrest at a roadblock near Showgrounds," Chuma said.

The MDC-Alliance communications department demanded the unconditional release of its members and the prosecution of those involved.

"Indeed, this latest incident of the abduction of our Youth Assembly leaders must not be viewed in isolation at all. For example, in January of 2019, several MDCAlliance members were abducted only to be dumped at police stations after being tortured for hours," a statement by the party read.

Source - the independent