130+ Missing Boys and Men – Cameroon

130 men and boys disappeared in Cameroon
130 men and boys disappeared in Cameroon

The families of at least 130 boys and men have been waiting for the Cameroonian authorities to reveal their whereabouts since 27 December 2014. On this day, security forces sealed off the villages of Magdeme and Doublé, in the Mayo Sava department in the Far North of Cameroon to conduct a cordon and search operation following repeated attacks by Boko Haram in the area. Gunshots rang in the air in the early morning operation and nine people including a 7-year-old girl who was shot, were killed by the forces. The security forces rounded up at least 200 boys and men from the village and forced them into trucks and least 130 of them have not been heard from again.

Amnesty International collected and shared with Cameroonian authorities a complete list of those who disappeared. However, the authorities are yet to conduct any investigations into the disappearances. They have denied the disappearance of the 130 boys and men stating that only 70 men were arrested on 27 December 2014. They have claimed that among the 70, 25 died in custody and 45 were taken to the Maroua prison and have been brought to court several times.

Bintou from the village of Magdeme lost her sister and niece who were shot and killed by the security forces during the search operation. The security forces also forced her husband, two sons, two brothers, and two sons-in-law, into trucks and led them away to an unknown destination. She tried to look for them at the Maroua prison three times and each time, the prison guards asked her to pay to check whether her relatives were being held there. She stopped going to the prison because she had no more money to pay the prison guards to let her into the prison to check whether her relatives were among those detained. As she continues to struggle to make ends meet, she hopes that one day she will find her family members who disappeared. “There is not even food…What we want is for our people to be released. My life is shattered. I’m now living with my relatives. I want accommodation and a means of livelihood,’’ she said.

Bintou is one of the many relatives of the victims of enforced disappearance living in anguish. A woman from Double whose son was among those taken, said, “The security forces took all the men and put them on several trucks. My son was on board. That was the last time I saw him. He was only 17- he knows nothing about life. He has never left the village.”

The disappearance of the boys and men has left their families facing economic hardship and emotional and psychological trauma from the uncertain fate of their relatives.   “The prison guards told me that if my 19-year-old son is not at the prison he has been killed. I don’t know where my son is. He disappeared. I keep hoping that he’s not dead, but I don’t know for how much longer.” A woman from Magdene whose son is missing

The Cameroonian authorities must recognise that the 130 boys and men were subjected to enforced disappearance by security forces and conduct an impartial and transparent investigation into the disappearances and ensure that anyone found responsible is brought to justice.

Jean Bigirimana – Burundi

Jean Bigirimana - disappeared on 22 July 2015 in Bujumbura ©Iwacu
Jean Bigirimana – disappeared on 22 July 2015 in Bujumbura ©Iwacu

Born in 1979 in Cankuzo Province in eastern Burundi, journalist Jean Bigirimana was last seen on 22 July 2016 in Bugarama, Muramvya province, when he was taken by people believed to be members of Burundi’s National Intelligence Service (SNR). That day, one of his colleagues at Iwacu newspaper received an anonymous call alerting him to the fact that Bigirimana had been arrested in Bugarama (around 45km from the capital Bujumbura) by the SNR. However, no one knows where he was taken. Efforts by his family, and his employer Iwacu to locate him have been unsuccessful to date. Even the Burundian National Independent Human Rights Commission (CNIDH), which joined the search in the weeks after his disappearance, has been unable to find him.

So far, there has been no word from the Burundian authorities and their investigations into his disappearance have been slow and fruitless. His case is among many in a country with a history of ineffective investigations into enforced disappearances.

Jean’s disappearance has been especially difficult and painful for his wife, Godeberthe Hakizimana, and two sons. In her search for the truth about her husband’s disappearance, she has threatened with death, including in June 2017, when a note with death threats was dropped in front of her home. The police have never investigated the incident. Her eldest son who is just 10 years old, has been having nightmares as he wonders what happened to his father.

“Maman, is Dad still alive?” he asks his mother,. He has told her that he thinks about his father a lot.

They were hopeful in the beginning that he would return to them. Now, as the years go by, they wonder whether he ever will.

“Jean studied law in school, but journalism was his passion”, Godeberthe Hakizimana says, referring to her husband.

Jean was among the few journalists who remained behind in as others fled the country in the aftermath of the failed coup of 13 May 2015 . The coup attempt followed President Pierre Nkurunziza’s decision to run for a controversial third term in office.

The continuous failure by the Burundian government to hold a thorough, impartial, transparent and effective investigation into Bigirimana’s disappearance is an affront to truth, justice and accountability. They must be reminded of their international human rights obligations to establish the truth, ensure justice and accountability in his and other cases.

Take action

Join us and sign the petition calling on Burundian authorities to ensure truth, justice and accountability in Jean’s case, and end impunity for attacks on the media:  https://www.amnesty.org/en/get-involved/take-action/end-impunity-in-burundi/

Marie-Claudette Kwizera – Burundi

Marie-Claudette Kwizera disappeared on 10 December 2015 in Bujumbura ©Private
Marie-Claudette Kwizera disappeared on 10 December 2015 in Bujumbura ©Private

As the world marked International Human Rights Day on 10 December 2015, Burundian human rights activist Marie-Claudette Kwizera went missing near the Central Polyclinic of Bujumbura, abducted by people believed to be members of the National Intelligence Service (SNR). At the time she was the treasurer of Ligue Iteka, Burundi’s first human rights organization.

Two days after her disappearance, an SNR agent informed Kwizera’s family that she was being detained at the SNR’s office and asked for 3.5 million Burundian francs (about 2,000 euros) in ransom. Despite paying the ransom, Ms. Kwizera’s family was not informed of her whereabouts. The agent was arrested after the family filed a complaint but was later released.

On 13 January 2016, one of Ms. Kwizera’s relatives visited the SNR’s office looking for her, only for them to deny holding her.

On 22 January 2016, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) reported Kwizera’s case to the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances.

The Burundian authorities continue to deny knowledge of her whereabouts andthey have failed to conduct a transparent and effective investigation into her disappearance, effectively denying her family, including her daughters truth and justice about what may have happened to her. Many fear she may have been killed.

Burundi’s Minister of Justice must immediately instruct the Prosecutor General to investigate Marie-Claudette Kwizera’s disappearance and regularly provide public updates on the progress of the investigation.

Take action now. Join us in calling on Burundi Minister of Justice to take steps to  inform her family and the public on the whereabouts of Marie-Claudette.  

Act now

[email protected] to ensure that a transparent and effective investigation into Marie-Claudette Kwizera’s disappearance is immediately set up and the public is kept informed about its progress. #Abacu #FreeMarieClaudette

Itai Dzamara – Zimbabwe

Itai Dzamara, arrested in a barbershop in Harare.©Kumbirai Mafunda/ZLHR
Itai Dzamara, arrested in a barbershop in Harare.©Kumbirai Mafunda/ZLHR

Itai Peace Dzamara, a journalist and pro-democracy activist, was at a barber shop in Harare’s Glen View suburb on the morning of 9 March 2015 getting a haircut, as he occasionally did, when five unknown men walked in and accused him of stealing cattle. They handcuffed him and drove off with him in a white truck with concealed number plates. He has never been heard from again. Attempts by members of his family and human rights lawyers to establish his whereabouts have been unfruitful.

Two days before he went missing, Itai had attended and addressed a rally by the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) at the Zimbabwe Grounds in Harare on Saturday 7 March 2015. During the rally, he called for mass action against the deteriorating economic conditions in Zimbabwe. “There are laws, including our own constitution, which require the government to protect the citizens. We want those laws to be followed. That’s our desire,” said Itai before his disappearance

The last fond memory his wife and two children have of him is celebrating his birthday the year before he disappeared. “He is not a birthday person, but last year we celebrated as a family at our house. We bought him cake and cooked his favourite meal. It is painful and hard to comprehend that we don’t know where he is,” his wife, Sheffra Dzamara, said in a blog.

Itai turned 39 years old on 7 August 2018 and his family would love nothing more than to get the chance to celebrate more birthdays with him. His wife says that his children continue to ask for him. “It pains me that Itai is missing a critical part of his own children’s lives.”, she said.

There has been no progress or update in the investigations into Itai’s disappearance despite a court order issued in 2015 ordering the police to provide regular updates on their search. Zimbabwe has a long history of enforced disappearances of government critics and activists and just like Itai, their fates remain unknown.

The Zimbabwe government has failed to effectively and transparently investigate Itai Dzamara’s disappearance for more than three years denying his family the truth of his whereabouts and justice. They must provide updates or conclusions on the investigations into his disappearance

Join us to demand for the truth about Itai.

Take action

Zimbabwean authorities must conduct a transparent and effective investigation into the whereabouts of Itai Dzamara and publicly share information on his fate. We want to know #WhereisItai.

 “All he desired was a peaceful nation, where people are free to express themselves and people are protected by the state.” 

“They decided to remove him from the picture”

Sheffra Dzamara, wife of Itai Dzamara

Dong Samuel Luak and Aggrey Ezbon Idri – South Sudan

Samuel Dong and Aggrey Idris Ezbon, disappeared in January 2017, in Nairobi and then in Juba a few days later, ©Private
Samuel Dong and Aggrey Idris Ezbon, disappeared in January 2017, in Nairobi and then in Juba a few days later, ©Private

Dong Samuel Luak, a prominent South Sudanese lawyer and human rights activist, and Aggrey Ezbon Idri, a member of the opposition, were abducted from the streets of Nairobi on 23 and 24 January 2017, respectively. Both Dong and Aggrey were vocal critics of the South Sudanese government and were active on Facebook at the time of their disappearance.

An enforced disappearance is a heinous crime and an offence to human dignity.

UN Working Group on Enforced Disappearances in their statement to the South Sudanese and Kenyan governments on the disappearance of Dong Samuel and Aggrey Ezbon Idri

Sources indicated that they had first been detained by Kenyan authorities and were at risk of deportation. However, both South Sudanese and Kenyan officials denied having them in their custody and did not provide any information on their whereabouts. Credible sources reported that the two men were seen at a National Security Service (NSS) detention facility in Juba, South Sudan on 25 and 26 January 2017 before being moved the next day to an unknown location. On the same day they were moved, on 27 January 2017, a Kenyan court ruled against their deportation to South Sudan, but by then both had already been presumably illegally transferred to South Sudan and forcibly disappeared.

Both Kenyan and South Sudanese authorities have denied being responsible for their enforced disappearance. Their families have neither received any official information about their whereabouts nor gotten any updates from the Kenyan police on the progress of their investigations into their disappearance.

“Dong Samuel did nothing wrong other than to say the truth. He gave people strength and courage to speak against the injustice in South Sudan. His children miss him. All of us miss him and Aggrey Idri. We ask the governments of Kenya and South Sudan to bring them back home safely.”, Dong Samuel’s relative, Polit Gok Waar said.

Their families continue to seek justice. All they can do is wait and hope that soon they will be united with their loved ones. Aya Benjamin, Aggrey Idri’s wife hopes that they will, and at the very least, get information on the men’s fate.  “I really need to know whether they are alive. I want them to come back. And if they are not, we have every right to know’’, she said.

Both South Sudanese and Kenyan authorities should investigate and disclose the whereabouts and fates of Dong Samuel Luak and Aggrey Ezbon Idri and ensure justice for the crimes committed against them.