Jestina Mukoko, the director of the Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP), who was abducted from her home on 3 December, was left by her abductors at Matapi Police Station in Harare on Tuesday 23 December. Police had previously denied arresting Ms Mukoko and had told the High Court in Harare that they were treating the case as a kidnapping.
The state-controlled Herald newspaper has reported that Ms Mukoko and another ZPP employee, Mr Broderick Takawira, along with eight political activists from the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), were to be charged with “recruiting or attempting to recruit people for the purposes of undergoing military training to overthrow the Government.”
The abduction, unlawful arrest and detention of the human rights workers and MDC activists is consistent with a pattern of human rights violations documented by Amnesty International since March 2007, when 32 MDC activists were arrested and charged with bombing police stations. The activists were allegedly tortured and denied access to their lawyers. The charges against the MDC activists were later dropped.
The practice of unlawful arrest and detention is one of the established tactics employed by the Zimbabwean authorities to intimidate and harass critics. The ZPP is one of the leading organisations in Zimbabwe involved in monitoring and documenting human rights violations, including state-sponsored beatings, torture and killings in the run-up to the 27 June elections.