Zimbabwean authorities have charged an opposition lawmaker and two activists with lying about being tortured by police after they were arrested last month.
MP Joana Mamombe and activists Cecilia Chimbiri and Netsai Marova were detained at their lawyer’s offices, said Opposition Movement for Democratic Change Alliance (MDC-A) spokeswoman Fadzayi Mahere.
The three women were last month admitted to hospital with various injuries and alleged police had subjected at least one of them to serious sexual violence. The arrests came as a team of UN experts called on Zimbabwe to stop “abductions and torture”, which they said were aimed at stifling dissent.
The three women were charged over their participation in a protest last month and were rearrested when visiting their lawyer to talk about that case.
“They are in police custody as we speak and they are still recovering from the torture they were subjected to,” Mahere said, adding that they now faced new charges of falsifying their previous ordeal.
“How can one falsify such degrees of inhuman and degrading treatment?” Mahere asked. “We are asking for the perpetrators to be brought to answer for what they did to these women. All they did was protest against hunger only to be subjected to all this.”
On Wednesday, nine United Nations special rapporteurs – who do not speak for the UN, but report their findings to it – called on Zimbabwe to drop the earlier charges against the women and stop the reported pattern of disappearances and torture.
“Targeting peaceful dissidents, including youth leaders, in direct retaliation for the exercise of their freedom of association, peaceful assembly and freedom of expression, is a serious violation of human rights law,” they said, adding that 49 cases of abduction and torture were reported in Zimbabwe last year.