The “abduction” and subsequent arrest of three young Movement for Democratic Change Alliance women could cause a diplomatic spat between Zimbabwe and the United Kingdom as Whitehall is already calling for stiffer sanctions on Zimbabwe and its barring from rejoining the Commonwealth.
But Britain could be left with a lot of egg on its face if, as Zimbabwe claims, the court proves that the abductions were “staged”.
Zimbabwe claims that the abductions were aimed at attracting world attention and are part of the opposition’s plan for regime change.
The three women, Joana Mamombe, Cecilia Chimbiri and Netsai Marova, are currently in custody and will appear in court tomorrow to apply for bail.
Lord Jonny Oates last week asked whether Britain had considered stiffer sanctions against Zimbabwe’s leaders and the security apparatus following the abductions.
Baroness Elizabeth Sugg, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development, as well as Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, said the UK will assess the situation but is currently guided the European Union which has an arms embargo on Zimbabwe and targeted sanctions against the Zimbabwe Defence Industries as well as suspended sanctions against three current and former security chiefs.
“The UK is seriously concerned about the challenging human rights situation in Zimbabwe,” she told the House of Lords.
“It remains one of the UK’s 30 Human Rights Priority Countries globally. The Minister for Africa spoke to the Zimbabwean Foreign Minister on 8 June and expressed his deep concern regarding recent reports of the abduction and torture of three female opposition activists, including a Member of Parliament – Joanna Mamombe, Cecilia Chimbiri and Netsai Marova.
“He urged the Foreign Minister to ensure the Government of Zimbabwe makes concrete progress on human rights, including investigations into violations. The UK will continue to monitor developments closely and urge the Government of Zimbabwe to uphold the rule of law and respect human rights.”
Lord Peter Hain asked what plans the UK had to make sure that the application by Zimbabwe to re-join the Commonwealth is suspended until any violations of human rights cease and are addressed, including the reported arrest, abduction and torture of Joana Mamombe, Netsai Marova and Cecilia Chimbiri.
Baroness Sugg said the readmission of Zimbabwe to the Cmmonwealth was not entirely up to Britain but was for all members.
“The decision regarding Zimbabwe’s readmission would be for all Commonwealth members. However, the UK will only support readmission when Zimbabwe meets the admission requirements, complying with the values and principles set out in the Commonwealth Charter. These principles include respect for human rights and the rule of law. Disproportionate use of force by Zimbabwe’s security forces, as seen in January 2019 and August 2019, and recent reports regarding the abduction and torture of three opposition activists, are clearly inconsistent with the Commonwealth Charter. The Minister for Africa made this clear when he spoke to the Zimbabwean Foreign Minister on 8 June,” she said.
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