UN human rights experts on Wednesday called on Zimbabwean authorities to immediately put an end to the reported pattern of torture and disappearances “aimed at suppressing protests and dissents.”

The call came after three female opposition activists – a member of parliament Joanna Mamombe, Cecilia Chimbiri, and Netsai Marova – were stopped at a police checkpoint in the capital Harare and “subsequently abducted, tortured and sexually assaulted,” according to a statement issued by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

The activists were on their way to participate in a peaceful protest on May 13 organized by the Alliance Youth Assembly of the main opposition party, Movement for Democratic Change, the UN agency said, adding the women were dumped in a market place after almost 48 hours.

The activists, the UN right experts said, suffered injuries and were rushed to the hospital.

However, a few days later, they were charged by authorities of violating COVID-19 regulations on public gatherings and for purportedly intending to promote public violence and breach of peace, according to the statement.

Zimbabwe’s authorities should “urgently prosecute and punish the perpetrators of this outrageous crime and to immediately enforce a policy of ‘zero tolerance’ for abductions and torture throughout the country” to guarantee women’s effective protection against sexual violence, as well as bringing those responsible to account, the experts said.

They also noted that, in 2019 alone, some 49 victims of abductions and torture in Zimbabwe were reported, while no investigations were conducted to hold perpetrators to account, according to the Pindula.

The UN experts also called on the Zimbabwean government to allow official visits by UN human rights experts for assessing the human rights situation in the country.

“Enforced disappearances of women often involve sexual violence, and even forced impregnation, with enormous harm inflicted not only on their physical health and integrity but also in terms of the resulting psychological damage, social stigma and disruption of family structures,” the experts said.

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