The Zimbabwean authorities must honour the promise they made to investigate “all the leads to establish the whereabouts” of disappeared pro-democracy activist and journalist, Itai Dzamara, Amnesty International said today on the third anniversary of his enforced disappearance.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa made the commitment at the Human Rights Council in Geneva in 2016 while he was Vice President.
“As Vice President, Emmerson Mnangagwa personally announced on behalf of the Zimbabwe government that they are actively investigating the disappearance of Itai Dzamara. Yet three months since his inauguration as President, we are all still in the dark,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for Southern Africa.
“Dzamara’s family and the world, need to know that no stone is being left unturned in the pursuit of justice for Itai.”
Itai Dzamara was a well-known critic of former president Robert Mugabe’s government. He publicly called for Mugabe to resign for what he said was his failure to manage the country’s failing economy.
He was abducted on 9 March 2015 by five unidentified men while he was at a barber shop in the Glen View suburb of Harare. On Saturday 7 March, before his abduction, he had addressed a rally in the capital Harare where he called for mass action to address the deteriorating economic conditions in Zimbabwe.
Witnesses say that his abductors handcuffed him and forced him into a white truck with concealed number plates before driving off.
Dzamara was well-known to the authorities and had previously been abducted, unlawfully detained and severely beaten by state security agents. Amnesty International believes he is a victim of enforced disappearance.
Zimbabwe has a long history of enforced disappearances of government critics and activists. In 2008, dozens of opposition and human rights activists were forcibly disappeared for weeks in a crackdown. The state repeatedly denied its involvement, but many activists were later found in state custody, while the fate and whereabouts of others remain unknown. “People don’t just vanish into thin air. Someone out there knows what happened to Itai Dzamara,” said Deprose Muchena.
“The government must scale up Itai’s search. Those who are found to have been behind his abduction and concealment of his whereabouts must be brought to justice in proceedings that meet fair trial standards. Impunity must not be allowed to thrive.”
President Mnangagwa was Vice President when he told the United Nations Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in Geneva in 2016 that the government was actively pursuing the search for Itai. However, the government has failed to give regular updates on the search efforts for the missing activist, despite a court order issued in 2016 instructing it to do so.