Rights group urges Zimbabwe to probe abuse of activists

JOHANNESBURG (AA) – An international human rights watchdog has called on Zimbabwean authorities to immediately launch a thorough and impartial investigation into the alleged abduction and beating of pro-democracy and rights activists.

“Three members of the pro-democracy activist group Occupy Africa Unity Square were abducted and severely assaulted by suspected ZANU-PF supporters…in Harare while engaging in a peaceful protest,” Amnesty International said in a press statement released late Wednesday.

According to the rights group, the activists sustained injuries and were later handed over to the Zimbabwean police by their abductors.

“They were subsequently released by police without charge and admitted to hospital where they are currently receiving treatment,” the rights group said.

The activists were reportedly abducted on Tuesday in the center of the capital Harare. They were bundled into three private cars driven by their abductors after their march had been intercepted.  Other members of the protest group managed to escape.

According to the statement, the activists were taken to the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front party (ZANU-PF) provincial offices along Forth Street where they were brutally assaulted.

“We are concerned about reports that the three activists were handed to police at Harare Central Police station by the abductors were allowed to leave without being interrogated or arrested,” Amnesty international’s Regional Director for Southern Africa Deprose Muchena said.

The rights group said that the attack on the activists was not an isolated incident, pointing to a recent incident last month when four members of the Occupy Africa Unity Square were arrested and detained after submitting a petition to the Parliament Speaker.

“The four men were severely beaten both in detention at parliament and while in custody at Harare Central Police Station,” Amnesty said.

Zimbabwean government officials could not be immediately reached to comment on the claims.

President Robert Mugabe’s ruling ZANU-PF party has long been accused of committing widespread rights violations against rights advocates, opposition figures, journalists and others.

Mugabe, 90, has ruled Zimbabwe since the country’s independence in 1980.

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