Good news: Cecillia Chimbiri and Joanah Mamombe have been acquitted of ‘faking’ their own abduction

Content warning: The following is hard to read. It contains descriptions of violent and inhumane treatment.

Activists Cecillia and Joanah were abducted, assaulted and jailed for speaking out and challenging the unjust politics in Zimbabwe. They’ve finally been acquitted, thanks in part to the support of compassionate people around the world.

What happened?

Zimbabwean activists Cecillia Chimbiri and Joanah Mamombe were arrested and abducted in 2020 following a peaceful protest about the government’s failure to provide social protection during the Covid-19 pandemic.

They were arbitrarily arrested following a protest in Harare, taken to a police station, and forcibly driven out of the city to a place where they were beaten and sexually assaulted. While still hospitalised, they were charged with offences related to the protest and later charged with faking their ordeal.

On 4 July 2023, Cecillia and Joanah were acquitted of publishing falsehoods about their abduction by the High Court. However, to date, no one has been held accountable for their terrible trauma.

How did Amnesty respond?

As part of Write for Rights 2022, we took action for Cecillia, Joanah and Netsai’s case to demand justice. In total, we campaigned for 13 brave individuals from around the world who all paid a great price for speaking truth to power.

10,000 Amnesty supporters in Australia, and over 500,000 globally, took action in support and rallied for their justice. Amnesty International Zimbabwe further supported through trial observation and mobilising local and international solidarity for them.

Together, we demonstrated the power of a collective voice both to raise awareness and apply pressure on authorities.

The right to protest is a human right

The right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly is a fundamental human right enabling peaceful protests – and it’s the role of government and security forces to protect this right.

But, all around the world, peaceful protestors are being imprisoned, threatened, and face physical violence from authorities. It’s a tactic of governments to jail protesters and organisers who are afraid of people power, intended to send a message and to silence anyone who dares to stand up against repression or protest, in particular young women, who have been at the forefront of standing up against human rights violations.

Everyone has the right to protest.

People power works – how can you help

When courageous people protest, they make the world a better place. Real change happens when ordinary people come together to take action – we are powerful enough to challenge injustice.

While we celebrate this outcome for Cecillia and Joanah, we should not lose sight of the need to fight impunity through demanding that the perpetrators who abducted and tortured them are brought to account.

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AUSTRALIA: Let's take the torture out of protest