For Immediate Release
Amnesty International Demands Immediate Release of Abducted Human Rights Activist in Zimbabwe
Jestina Mukoko Taken from Home by Men Identifying Themselves as Police
NEW YORK - Amnesty International
demanded that Zimbabwean authorities immediately disclose the whereabouts
of human rights activist Jestina Mukoko, who was abducted from her home
at dawn today south of the capital, Harare, by armed men in plain clothes
who identified themselves as police.
The abduction follows the arrest in late November
of three of Mukoko's colleagues at a clinic offering treatment to cholera
Amnesty International has also received information
that several trade unionists, including the secretary general of the Progressive
Teachers Union of Zimbabwe, Raymond Majongwe, and a journalist working
for a South African broadcaster, were also arrested in Harare today. The
human rights organization fears that authorities may have launched a new
campaign to silence human rights activists in the wake of protests by the
Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions.
Mukoko is director of the Zimbabwe Peace Project
(ZPP), a human rights organization that has been monitoring and documenting
human rights violations in Zimbabwe.
Amnesty International's Africa program
director, Erwin van der Borght, said Mukoko's abduction or arrest was "part
of an established pattern of harassment and intimidation of human rights
defenders by Zimbabwean authorities in an attempt to discourage them from
documenting and publicizing the violations that are taking place."
An eyewitness told Amnesty International that
at least 12 men stormed Mukoko's home in Norton at around 5 a.m. local
time, taking her by force while she was in pajamas and barefoot. The men
then drove off in two cars, one of which did not have registration plates.
Last Saturday, November 29, about six men,
believed to be part of the same group, tried to enter her house during
her absence after claiming to be workmates, according to the same eyewitness.
ZPP produces periodic reports on the
human rights situation in the country, compiled through a network of community-based
human rights defenders.
"We hold the Zimbabwean authorities responsible
for anything that may happen to Jestina Mukoko," said van der Borght.
"She should be released immediately and while in detention the authorities
should guarantee her safety and ensure that she has access to a lawyer
and family, as well as food, warm clothes and medication."
On Thursday, November 27, three members of
the staff of the ZPP were arrested by police in Budiriro (a low-income
suburb of Harare) at a clinic offering treatment to cholera victims. Police
initially threatened to charge them under the Access to Information and
Protection of Privacy Act and the Official Secrets Act. They were later
charged with criminal nuisance and required to pay a fine of Z$20 and released