In response to the Zimbabwe Republic Police's decision to charge three female opposition MDC-Alliance party youth leaders for participating in peaceful protests against hunger during the lockdown period last month, Muleya Mwananyanda, Amnesty International's Deputy Director for Southern Africa said:
"Joana Mamombe, Cecelia Chimbiri and Netsai Marova are victims of police brutality, sexual assault and enforced disappearance. Before charging them for allegedly breaking the lockdown rules, authorities must investigate the crimes against them.
"The charges against these three women are a travesty and ploy to intimidate the opposition and send a chilling message that anyone who challenges the government is putting themselves at risk.
"The Zimbabwean authorities should hold to account those suspected to be responsible for the enforced disappearance and sexual assault of the three female opposition leaders, rather than intimidating them with criminal charges. The charges should be dropped immediately."
The three leaders from the opposition Movement for Democratic Change - Alliance (MDC-Alliance) were disappeared after they were arrested at a roadblock in Warren Park guarded by police and soldiers on 13 May.
They were part of a demonstration organised against the authorities' failure to provide social protection for the poor during the COVID-19 lockdown. They were later dropped in Bindura after they were subjected to sexual assault violence used as a method of torture and other human rights violations.
They were charged with participating in a gathering with intent to promote public violence and breaches of the peace or bigotry as defined in section 37 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act among others.