Content warning: The following contains descriptions of violent and inhumane treatment.
The Zimbabwean government’s hostility towards human rights defenders, protesters, political activists and journalists has resulted in the ill treatment of brave people like Joanah, Netsai, and Cecillia.
Joanah, Netsai and Cecillia are three women from Harare, Zimbabwe who share many things in common: they love playing board games, watching Netflix, and are passionate about politics. Sadly, they now share horrific memories of a harrowing and degrading attack.
After leading an anti-government protest back in 2020, Joanah, Netsai and Cecillia were arbitrarily arrested and taken to a police station where they were forced into an unmarked car with hoods over their heads. Scared for their lives, they were driven out of the city where they were beaten and sexually assaulted. Injured and discarded in a pit, the three women were not found for two days.
This horrific attack would mark only the beginning of a traumatic injustice Joanah, Netsai and Cecillia are still enduring and fighting to this day.
Two days after the attack, Joanah, Netsai and Cecillia were found 87 kms from home. Covered in cuts and bruises, their clothes completely torn – the three women were immediately taken to hospital. Prison guards and police officers surveilled the hospital, preventing them from speaking to any journalists.
Whilst hospitalised, they were all charged with criminal offences relating to the protest.
After the three women stated that they recognized some of their attackers, they were all re-arrested and charged with ‘faking’ their ordeal. After being arrested and criminally charged for exercising their right to protest, and enduring unimaginable violence from their attackers – Joanah, Netsai and Cecillia were then charged with faking their own abduction and torture.
They were granted bail 16 days later, under the condition that they do not communicate about their case. This applies directly or otherwise with any of the public, and or private media, including social media. These conditions remain.
People power works – how can you help
Every year, millions of compassionate people like you take action for Amnesty’s ‘Write for Rights’ campaign. Those actions pressure authorities around the world, to bring human rights abusers to justice.
To date, no one has been held accountable for the trauma endured by Joanah, Netsai and Cecillia.
They may be barred from speaking out – but we are not. And together, our voices are incredibly powerful. Take action to demand justice for Joanah, Netsai and Cecillia.
When courageous people protest, they make the world a better place. We must protect the right to protest wherever it is restricted and whenever it is at risk.
For Write for Rights 2022, we are taking action for brave individuals from around the world, who have all paid a great price for speaking truth to power. We run Write for Rights every year because it works – real change happens when ordinary people come together to take action.
Learn more about Write for Rights. Write a letter, change a life – including yours.