Abduction, disappearance and torture of UZ student abominable

ZIMBABWE Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) strongly condemns the abominable treatment of Fanuel Kaseke, a student activist who was abducted and disappeared by some unidentified people on Thursday 29 June 2017 and held incommunicado until he was released on Tuesday 04 July 2017.

According to information gathered by ZLHR, the 23-year-old Kaseke, who is a political science student at the University of Zimbabwe (UZ), went missing on Thursday 29 June 2017 after he was abducted by three unidentified men and a woman, who were travelling in a vehicle along Seke road in Chitungwiza.

The men and woman stopped by as Kaseke, a resident of Chitungwiza was walking and they asked him for some directions to the Vehicle Inspection Department and when he started to direct them one of the people then suggested he accompanied them in their vehicle and then be dropped off where he himself was going because it was essentially in the same direction.

Kaseke agreed to the proposal and was offered the middle seat with the explanation that it was the best seat to view the road from as he directed them.

After driving for about 100 metres along Seke road, Kaseke then instructed the driver of the vehicle to make a right turn but the driver did not make the turn and actually accelerated more in the direction of a police camp.

This is the time when Kaseke got alarmed and asked what the men and woman were doing. The UZ student made an attempt to grab the vehicle’s door and the two men restrained him and started assaulting him with their hands. One of the men then hit him hard on the head with his elbow and he fell unconscious and could not remember anything except waking up in a very dark room which had no windows or electric lights and had a metal door.

Kaseke, who discovered that the room was empty and he was lying on the bare floor could not recollect anything from the time he was knocked out in the vehicle to the time he woke up in the room.

He was held captive in the room until, supposedly, the following day when three men appeared again.

During his first night in captivity Kaseke was deprived of food and water and later on he was only given four slices of bread a day.

The three unidentified men asked him on whose instructions he was writing politically-related articles and organising demonstrations at the UZ and accused him of being big-headed owing to his political activism and his articles which had incited the demonstration held at the UZ on Monday 26 June by some students.

The men also accused him of inviting Pastor Evan Mawarire to address the students during the medical students’ demonstration against the fees hike by the UZ authorities.

During the interrogation, the unidentified men produced a picture in which Kaseke featured and which depicted the MDC-T political party officials giving food to some students and accused him of inviting MDC-T youths to participate in demonstrations held at the UZ.

For the entire period of his detention, the unidentified men kept asking him the identities of people who were sending him to do “these things”.

But in his response, Kaseke pointed out that the economic hardships that he was facing as a student were motivating him to exercise his constitutional rights.

In response to this, the unidentified men would then assault him with open palms, punch him with clenched fists and kick him with booted feet all over his body. Some would hold him while one would then beat him up.

Kaseke never left the room for the entire five days he was detained there.

On the day of his release, on Tuesday 04 July 2017, Kaseke was given a bottle of some liquid which the men said was water to drink and he drank it but it had a “funny” taste in his mouth and he realised that it was not pure water at all.

After drinking the concoction, Kaseke passed out soon after and only woke up in a public place later identified by passers-by as Mbare high-density suburb in Harare and by then he feeling was dizzy and was in pain and struggled to stand up. Kaseke eventually made his way to Mbare Police Station and upon arriving at the entrance he felt very dizzy and passed out again before he made a report under record number RRB32004/17 after he regained consciousness.

As a result of the torture he went through, Kaseke has been having continuous bouts of headache, dizziness and stomach ache.

After his release from captivity, some men identifying themselves as policemen in plain clothes have been visiting Kaseke’s residence in Chitungwiza asking for his whereabouts and advised his parents that he should report to Harare Central Police Station.

ZLHR condemns the inhuman treatment of Kaseke who from his testimony was targeted as retribution for exercising his constitutional rights guaranteed in the Constitution such as freedom of expression, freedom to demonstrate and petition and freedom of association and assembly.

The abduction and torture of Kaseke is a gross violation of his right to freedom of movement, from torture, degrading and inhumane treatment and dignity as provided for in the Constitution of Zimbabwe and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as a range of other international treaties to which Zimbabwe is a State Party.

The ill-treatment of Kaseke is clearly meant to curtail him from exercising his constitutional rights.

State and non-state actors and the government, who for years have been fingered and held accountable in acts of abduction, enforced disappearance and torture of citizens, need to observe these basic human rights in the interest of upholding the rule of law in Zimbabwe. It remains of great concern that such acts continue to be committed at a time when the scars incurred by victims and survivors of enforced disappearances are yet to heal and at a time when the government has been attempting to paint a rosy picture of the human rights situation in Zimbabwe.

These incidents of abduction and enforced disappearances should compel the Minister of Home Affairs and Commissioner-General of Zimbabwe Republic Police to bring to account those persons responsible for the abduction, and torture of Kaseke and the violation of his fundamental rights because ignoring it will perpetuate impunity and reinforce the belief that the perpetrators of such heinous crimes are above the law.

Therefore, ZLHR urges the government to;

  • Carry out an immediate thorough and impartial investigation into the abduction and torture of Kaseke with a view to publishing the results of the probe and bringing those responsible to justice in accordance with international standards.
  • Take all necessary measures to guarantee the physical and psychological integrity and security of Kaseke.
  • Cease targeting students and human rights defenders and guarantee in all circumstances that they are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without any fear of reprisals.
  • Ratify and domesticate the International Convention on Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearances
  • Criminalise with very high penalties and prosecute all cases of enforced disappearances and torture.

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