The leader of a rural teachers’ union was badly beaten and tortured before being left for dead in the night cold after he was abducted by six masked men in front of his children and wife just before midnight on Wednesday.
The kidnapping came just hours after the European Union met Zimbabwean officials hoping to heal diplomatic strains caused by human rights abuses under former President Robert Mugabe.
On Thursday, the European Union’s head of mission to Zimbabwe Timo Olkkonen said the kidnapping and torture of Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe president Obert Masaraure was “unjust and unacceptable”.
MDC leader Nelson Chamisa said Masaraure’s kidnap, which follows the detention of his deputy Godfrey Chanda in Gweru on Tuesday, pointed to the deterioration of the political situation in Zimbabwe.
“Zimbabwe has turned into a pariah state and banana republic,” he said on Twitter.
The unionists appear to have been targeted for urging their members to go on strike for three days starting on Monday this week.
Masaraure’s wife raised the alarm after six men wearing masks stormed their home and grabbed her husband in front of their terrified children before driving away into the night.
He was tortured by his captors and later dumped, the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) said. Pictures circulated on Thursday showed Masaraure with whip marks on his back, arms and buttocks.
The ZLHR said: “Abduction and torture of Obert Masaraure is strongly condemned. The ZLHR is very disturbed that suspected state agents continue to commit the international crime of torture.”
The lawyers warned that “those fronting attacks can be prosecuted in other countries”, adding: “Torture as an international crime attracts international jurisdiction. Those behind these actions can face prosecution in any country, including some African Union member states.”
Security sources told ZimLive the abduction was carried out by a “Ferret Team” – a joint unit made up of agents from the Central Intelligence Organisation, Military Intelligence and the police. The same team has previously been involved in extra-judicial activities including kidnappings of opposition activists and shootings.