‘Dzamara’s disappearance blow to rule of law’

HARARE - Itai Dzamara’s continued disappearance is a blow to Zimbabwe’s integrity, the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) has said.

Dzamara, a journalist and human rights activist, was abducted nearly four months ago. His whereabouts remain unknown.

Elasto Mugwadi, ZHRC chair, told the parliamentary thematic committee on Human Rights yesterday that the commission has received thousands of petitions from the international community.

“I have stopped opening my e-mail and responding because I need over two months to respond,” Mugwadi said.

“The international community feels, by setting up ZHRC, we are genuinely saying we would want to ensure that people’s rights are protected.

“The disappearance of a person with no explanation in a highly-securitised country like ours wouldn’t please anyone. We will continue to be accused of violating human rights even when we say we are doing our best.”

Mugwadi was accompanied by five other commissioners.

They expressed worry to the Mike Nyambuya-led committee over government’s unwillingness to ratify the most important international laws on human rights.

“At the last review process, 177 recommendations were made and government agreed to implement 130,” Mugwadi said.

“Others are still outstanding. They also relate to the ratification of international treaties and conventions such as the one on Torture which is critical.”

Although Zimbabwe accepted the recommendation to ratify the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in 2012, it is yet to ratify it.

Ellen Sithole, ZHRC deputy chair, said President Robert Mugabe should lead by example being the incumbent chair of African Union (AU) and Southern African Development Community (Sadc).

“It actually has an impact on how we are perceived outside,” she said.

“We are the current chair of AU and Sadc, it should be seen that we are taking the lead in the way universality of human rights is shown on the ground.”

Joseph Kurebwa, a ZHRC commissioner said, “The country feels alienated. Even economic sanctions and all criticism have much to do with issues around human rights.”

Chief Sinamupande demanded to know the exact steps ZHRC was taking to find Dzamara.

Chigwada said, “All we have done is recommend that investigations be done and be escalated and that compliance be made with the court order.

“We continue to sympathise and hope our security systems will be tightened so that no one suffers similar fate in future.”

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