Abduction and secret detention of Zimbabwean human rights defenders

3 Dec, 2008 | Publications

On 3 December 2008, at around 05.00 am, Ms Jestina Mukoko, Director of the Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP) was taken from her home in Norton, Zimbabwe, 50km west of Harare. She was abducted by approximately 15 armed plain-clothed security agents and taken awat in a Mazda Familia car without registration plates and believed to be used by the Zimbabwe Central Intelligence Organization (CIO).

Although Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights were informed about this at about 7.30am and have taken up the case, Ms Mukoko’s location has not been communicated to her family or her lawyers, and her whereabouts remain unknown several hours after her abduction.

No indications were given as to why Ms Mukoko was abducted, but her organisation, the ZPP, chronicled the explosion of violence directed at the civilian population and political opposition during the recent disputed elections, documenting over 16,000 incidences of politically motivated
violence between January and June 2008. Ms Mukoko herself made many prominent public statements providing early warning of the escalating violence.

The abduction mirrors similar actions taken against human rights activists in Zimbabwe since March 2008, most notably in October and November, where people were abducted from their homes in pre dawn raids. The whereabouts of those activists still remain unknown, despite a High Court ruling that they be brought to court by 11 November 2008.

No Peace Without Justice is deeply concerned by these actions and calls on the Zimbabwean authorities to provide full disclosure of Ms Mukoko’s whereabouts and for her immediate release. While in detention, the Zimbabwe authorities must ensure her health and safety, including the provision of food and drink, warm clothes and any medical supplies that may be necessary.

This most recent arrest belies the commitment made by the Zimbabwean authorities in the recent power-sharing agreement to resolve the challenges facing Zimbabwe and, in particular, to full resotration of the protection of human rights.

No Peace Without Justice calls on the Zimbabwean authorities to release immediately all human rights activists in their custody, to comply with the Zimbabwean High Court’s order to release all detainess who are held without charges and to ensure the earliest possible restoration of respect for human rights and the rule of law in Zimbabwe.

Further, No Peace Without Justice urges the United Nations, the African Union and SADC to raise this issue as a matter of urgency with the Zimbabwean Government and to ensure that any further talks on power-sharing include specific commitments to the protection of human rights activists in Zimbabwe.

We also urge the European Union to insist on full implementation of articles 2 and 9 of the ACP-EC Cotonou Agreement, concerning respect for human rights, democratic principles and the rule of law, and call on the governments and parliaments of member States to do everything possible to facilitate the immediate release of Ms Mukoko and other detained Zimbabwean human rights defenders and to seek assurances that their safety and well-being will be guaranteed.

For further information, contact Alison Smith on asmith@npwj.org or +32-486-986 235 or Nicola Giovannini on ngiovannini@npwj.orgor +32-2-548-3913.