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Church Leaders in Zimbabwe Urge Government to Bring All Cases of Disappearance to Closure

Poster for the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances. Credit: United Nations

On the commemoration of the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances, members of the Churches Converge on Conflict and Peace (CCCOP) in Zimbabwe, a consortium of church organizations working for peace, have called on their country’s government to bring all cases of missing persons to a close.  

In their statement issued Monday, August 30, officials of the organization to which the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace Zimbabwe (CCJPZ) is a member say the Southern African nation has had a history of enforced disappearances.

“This day should be a reminder to the government to intensify the search for missing persons and to take all measures possible to prevent such occurrences and put an end to such crimes by ensuring compensation to victims and making perpetrators accountable,” CCCOP members say in the statement issued on the day of the commemoration that was established in December 2020 by the United Nations. 

They add that the Zimbabwean government, through National Peace and Reconciliation Commission, "should help in investigating all cases of disappearances in order to bring closure.”

CCCOP members note that Zimbabwe experienced enforced disappearances in previous years especially during the 1983 to 1987 Gukurahundi period.  

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Gukurahundi was a series of massacres carried out against Ndebele people by the Zimbabwe National Army. 

In the statement, CCCOP members who also include the Zimbabwe Divine Destiny (ZDD), Zimbabwe Christian Alliance (ACA) and the Ecumenical Church Leaders' Forum (ECLF) further say that activists have gone missing in recent years and they still remain unaccounted for.  

They highlight the case of Itai Dzamara, a journalist and vocal critic of the late President Robert Mugabe, who was kidnapped from a barbershop in March 2015. Since there, his whereabouts remain unknown.

In the August 30 statement that is also supported by the European Union, members of the consortium call on the Zimbabwean government to look into past cases of human rights violations.

“Take effective measures to address past human rights violations, including abductions and enforced disappearances by security agents, with a view to establishing the truth, giving access to justice to the victims, bringing perpetrators to account, and providing remedies to the victims, including compensation and treatment,” they say.

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The Church leaders also urge Zimbabwe’s leadership “to stop using abductions as a tool to deal with political opponents, rather explore peaceful and non-violent means to address citizens’ concerns such as dialogue when discontent persist.”

CCCOP members further urge the government to domesticate the International Convention on Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearances and reform the Missing Persons Act

They also call upon Zimbabwe’s leadership to “provide adequate financial and material resources to strengthen the capacity of Chapter 12 independent such as Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission and the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission to discharge their constitutional mandate.” 

CCCOP members note that the enforced disappearances “do not only affect the immediate family of the victims, but has adverse effect on community members, and the whole nation at large with sense of insecurity.”

“As Churches we ground our commitment to human rights in the core of Christian theological conviction that each and every human life is sacred. All humans who are mistreated or tormented are somebody's brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, parents and grandparents,” Church leaders in Zimbabwe say in their August 30 statement.

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