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Outrage over Zim rights abuses

Zimbabwe is in the spotlight again for bad reasons after suspected state agents abducted and bludgeoned activists that were planning street protests against the imminent introduction of bond notes on Friday, with the European Union and United States saying they are worried about the country’s deteriorating human rights record.

BY STAFF REPORTER

Patson Dzamara in hospital

Patson Dzamara in hospital

United States ambassador Harry Thomas Jr visited activist Patson Dzamara at a Harare hospital where he is recovering after the bloody attack and the visit was followed by a strongly-worded statement from the embassy.

“The United States notes with concern reports of the abduction, assault, and harassment of civil society leaders ahead of Friday’s scheduled demonstrations,” read part of the statement.

“We urge the Zimbabwe government to investigate these crimes and ensure adequate protection of individuals peacefully exercising their constitutionally guaranteed rights to freedom of expression.”

The embassy said Thomas Jr’s visit to Dzamara was to show the United States’ support for rights of the activist and for all Zimbabweans.

“The United States remains concerned about Zimbabwe’s deteriorating human rights record, which includes the continued harassment, arrests, and ongoing detention of civil rights leaders, political activists, and journalists demanding economic and political reforms,” the statement added.

“In many cases, these individuals have been assaulted and denied access to adequate health care.

“Some have been detained for extended periods and reportedly been subjected to torture, while the disappearance of some activists, including Itai Dzamara, who disappeared on March 9 2015, remain unresolved.

“These actions are in contravention of Zimbabwe’s international commitments.

“The United States supports the freedoms of speech and assembly, and we call on the government of Zimbabwe to respect the human rights of all Zimbabwean citizens, and to uphold its laws and international commitments.”

Dzamara and scores of other activists were allegedly abducted and brutalised by suspected state-sponsored militias before their vehicles were burnt, hours before an anti-bond notes demonstration in Harare.

Dzamara was stripped naked and tortured before being dumped along the Harare-Bulawayo highway.

The EU delegation, heads of mission of EU member states in Harare and Switzerland also issued a joint statement on Friday condemning the increasing abuse of human rights in Zimbabwe.

The heads of mission note with growing concern a significant and worrying increase in the number of incidents over recent months, in violation of the fundamental human rights and freedoms enshrined in Chapter 4 of the Constitution,” the statement read.

“Those incidents include acts of intimidation, violence, abduction and torture,  violations of the rights of arrested and detained persons, and a lack of respect of the freedom of assembly and association and the freedom to demonstrate and petition.

 “The heads of mission repeat their appeals to the competent authorities to conduct thorough investigations of these incidents, and to ensure that those responsible for commissioning and carrying out these crimes are prosecuted.

“The government of Zimbabwe is responsible for the protection of its citizens from abduction and torture, regardless of their political opinions,” the statement added.

 “Human rights, democracy and the rule of law are essential elements of the bilateral relations between the European Union and Zimbabwe. Sustainable peace, development and prosperity cannot exist without respect for human rights and freedoms.

“Those principles underpin all internal and external policies of the European Union.”

President Robert Mugabe’s government has reacted with brute force to numerous protests against his rule and the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe’s move to introduce bond notes.

Activists have been tortured by state agents and police for holding peaceful protests and thousands have been detained.

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