Activist Itai Dzamara still missing

Zimbabwe: Human rights activist and regime dissident Itai Dzamara still missing

Apr 02, 2015

The human rights activist and regime dissident Itai Dzamara was kidnapped on 9 March, allegedly by Zimbabwean state forces, and remains missing since then. Human rights groups, the European Union as well as the United States are demanding his immediate release and are deeply concerned about his physical and psychological integrity.

Itai Dzamara was hospitalized in November 2014 after being savagely beaten by Zimbabwean police

International human rights organisations including Amnesty International (AI) and Human Rights Watch (HRW) constantly report on human rights violations by the Zimbabwean Government of President Robert Mugabe. One of the latest incidents is the case of human rights activist, journalist and regime dissident Itai Dzamara.

In the past, Itai Dzamara was several times arbitrarily arrested and brutally assaulted by state forces for his political activism against President Mugabe. Recently, Dzamara submitted a petition in which he calls upon Mugabe to resign from his position. Shortly after, on 9 March, he was kidnapped by five unidentified men in Harare and is missing since then. Many fear he might be at great risk of torture while in secret detention. A local Parliamentarian, Eddie Cross, also expressed grave concern about this situation, and further stated he is afraid to “not see him again” alive.

AI reported that local human rights groups accuse Zimbabwean state forces of kidnapping Dzamara for his activism against the President, allegations denied by the Government. A group of 83 civil society organisations also accused the Government of abducting Dzamara, adding that “undemocratic actions, such as abductions, intimidation and torture by the state against activists, are disheartening when the lives of the Zimbabweans are becoming even more difficult due to the government’s failure to arrest the worsening socio-economic challenges in the country.” In an opinion piece, Ben Freeth, Executive Director of the Mike Campbell Foundation, went further and affirmed that “it is time for us to consider another approach to the future system of leadership of Zimbabwe.”

AI, HRW and the international community including the European Union as well as the United States are now calling for the immediate and safe return of Itai Dzamara.

The Atlas of Torture Project

Monitoring and Preventing Torture Worldwide - Building Upon the Work of the UN Special Rapporteur

"The reality is alarming. Despite the fact that torture constitutes one of the most brutal attacks on human dignity and one of the most serious human rights violations, and notwithstanding the absolute nature of the prohibition of torture and ill-treatment even in the most exceptional circumstances, such as war, internal disturbances and terrorism, torture and ill-treatment are widespread practices in the majority of the countries on our planet.”

Be it for the purpose of extracting confessions or information, for extorting money or for deliberate discrimination against specific groups, torture and ill-treatment take place everywhere and continue to be inflicted in a systematic and widespread manner in many countries around the world. Though the root causes may differ from country to country, it can always be traced back to both individual and systemic factors such as insufficient legal frameworks, corrupt or dysfunctional criminal justice systems and widespread impunity, ineffective safeguards, and lack of effective monitoring and public scrutiny of the security sector.


The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture (UNSRT) has developed as one of the strongest tools of the United Nations to address the phenomenon of torture worldwide. Among his main activities rank fact-finding missions, which the former UNSRT, Prof. Manfred Nowak, conducted in 18 countries in all regions of the world providing governments with an independent assessment of the situation of torture and the conditions of detention, identifying the root causes for abuse, and formulating recommendations which would strengthen the prevention of torture.

Despite the overwhelming consensus among international human rights experts that these recommendations should be rigorously followed-up to ensure that the insights gained are not lost and translated into concrete actions and a sustainable strengthening of the prevention of torture, to date there is no regular in-country follow-up foreseen under the UNSRT's mandate. Nor does the United Nations human rights system have the means to provide for systematic follow-up through other programmes.

Precisely to fill this gap, Prof. Manfred Nowak and his team of experts at the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute of Human Rights have developed the Atlas of Torture project which is funded by the European Commission under the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR). The project is designed to strengthen the implementation of the UNSRT’s recommendations in five selected countries during a period of three years. The overall goal of the project is to strengthen civil society organisations in their capacity to promote and advocate for the adoption of specific measures for the prevention of torture and ill-treatment.

“NGOs and civil society have been the driving force behind the UN human rights agenda since its very beginning in the 1940s. … At the same time, civil society, including NGOs, academia, independent media and investigative journalists, are among the main sources of information about the factual situation of human rights in all countries of the world.”

The primary target group of the Atlas of Torture project are civil society organisations involved in combating torture, reforming the criminal justice system, and more generally, promoting the protection of human rights of persons deprived of liberty…..