Press release May 15, 2020
Zimbabwe: Authorities Must Investigate Alleged Beating and Torture of Activists
Missing Zimbabwean opposition activists located after alleged detention, beating, and torture.
In response to the alleged detention, beating, and torture of three members of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change Alliance by police in Zimbabwe, Freedom House issued the following statement:
“Zimbabwean authorities should immediately and impartially investigate the alleged beating and torture of Netsai Marova, Joana Mamombe, and Cecilia Chimbiri, and prosecute those responsible,” said Tiseke Kasambala, chief of party for Freedom House’s Advancing Rights in Southern Africa program. “The brutal actions attributed to the police are a chilling illustration of the lengths to which the authorities are prepared to go in order to crush dissent and intimidate perceived government critics. Despite repeatedly promising human rights reforms, the government of President Emmerson Mnagagwa has not broken with the country’s violent past.”
Police arrested and detained Marova, Mamombe, and Chimbiri on May 13 after they participated 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. Police denied knowing the whereabouts of the women, and their lawyers were unable to locate them.
The activists were found a day later, about an hour outside of the city, in the area of Bindura South. They say that they were initially held at Harare’s central police station before being forced into a vehicle, their faces covered by sackcloth, and driven to a location in Bindura South where assailants interrogated them and subjected them to acts of torture and cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment.
The police and other security forces in Zimbabwe routinely arrest, harass, and assault human rights defenders, political activists, and other government critics. Scores of activists have been abducted and subjected to physical abuse. Perpetrators are rarely held to account.
Zimbabwe is rated Partly Free in Freedom in the World 2020, and Partly Free in Freedom on the Net 2019.