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Jestina Mukoko

Volume 486: debated on Wednesday 21 January 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports he has received on the whereabouts and safety of the human rights activist Jestina Mukoko, Director of the Zimbabwe Peace Project; and what representations he has made to the Zimbabwean authorities regarding her disappearance. (246291)

Jestina Mukoko, director of the Zimbabwe Peace Project, was discovered in Matapi prison in Harare on 23 December 2008 by Zimbabwe lawyers for human rights, despite official denials that her whereabouts were known. She has since been transferred between other prisons and charged, with nine others, with recruiting persons to undergo training in Botswana in order to commit acts of armed insurgency. The accused claim to have been beaten while in custody and to have been denied access to doctors. Jestina Mukoko's lawyers have filed a separate application in the High Court for those in need of treatment to be taken to hospital. No date has been fixed for this hearing.

The Government, along with EU partners, made representation to the Zimbabwe authorities demanding the release of Jestina Mukoko and other abductees. On 6 December 2008, and with our full support, the French EU presidency issued a statement expressing the EU's deep concern and calling on the government of Zimbabwe to ensure her immediate freedom. This was conveyed to the Zimbabwean Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Harare in a démarche by the EU Troika on 8 December 2008 and reaffirmed by the European Council on 12 December 2008. On 19 December 2008 we issued a note verbale to the Zimbabwean ambassador demanding investigations be made as to the location of Ms Mukoko and fellow abductees. We deplore this ongoing abuse of the legal and human rights of political prisoners and urge the restoration of internationally-accepted human rights standards in Zimbabwe.