In response to the arrest and disappearance of three opposition activists in Zimbabwe, Freedom House issued the following statement:
“We are profoundly concerned by the disappearance of Netsai Marova, Joana Mamombe, and Cecilia Chimbiri. Zimbabwean authorities must immediately investigate their disappearance and reveal their whereabouts,” said Jon Temin, director of Africa programs at Freedom House.
“If the police are holding them in custody, they should ensure their well-being and allow them access to medical care, lawyers, and their families.
If they are being held by other security services, they should immediately be released or returned to police custody.
Detention of an individual by authorities and refusal to acknowledge their whereabouts is an enforced disappearance, a serious violation of international law.
Those responsible for the disappearance of these activists should be brought to justice.”
Netsai Marova, Joana Mamombe, and Cecilia Chimbiri are members of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) Alliance.
They disappeared on May 13 after participating in a citizen demonstration in Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare, over the lack of a social safety net for poor and vulnerable communities amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Unidentified members of the Zimbabwe police force reportedly arrested them following the demonstration.
Friends who spoke to them by phone stated that the women believed they were being taken to the Harare Central Police Station.
They have not been heard from since.
The police have denied that they are in custody, and lawyers have been unable to locate them.
This development is part of a broad pattern of persecution of human rights defenders and opposition activists by the Zimbabwe police, who routinely arrest and harass human rights activists, political activists, and other government critics.
Itai Dzamara, a human rights activist, was abducted by armed men in March 2015 and remains missing. Several other activists and opposition members have been disappeared by the police and other security forces.