The Zimbabwe government is reluctant to take effective steps to address legislation which excessively violates human rights, a coalition of 21 civil society groups has told the United Nations (UN).
This comes after the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council has started its Universal Periodic Review (UPR), scrutinising the human rights records of all UN members.
In a joint submission to the UPR, the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum and Civicus, said they were alarmed by the recent enforced disappearance of human rights defender Itai Dzamara and the failure to conduct a thorough and impartial investigation into his abduction as well as the failure to align over 400 pieces of legislation to the new Constitution, adopted in March 2013.
“The failure to harmonise all laws in line with the new Constitution remains a prevailing concern,” the rights groups told the UN.
All members of the UN are expected to submit themselves every four years to scrutiny of their human rights record.
Zimbabwe underwent the UPR process from October 2011 to March 2012 and is due for another review. During the review by the Human Rights Council in October 2012, 177 recommendations were made and Zimbabwe accepted 130.
“During its initial review, Zimbabwe accepted 131 recommendations, including committing to reviewing and amending pieces of legislation which excessively and unwarrantedly restrict civil society space such as the Public Order and Security Act (Posa) which regulates protests and public gatherings and the Private Voluntary Organisations (PVO) Act by which CSOs are legally registered and allowed to operate in the country,” the NGOs report reads.
“However, despite these pledges, government has failed to take effective steps to address deficits in these laws. Moreover, the authorities have continued to invoke both the Posa and PVO Act to suppress the work of human rights defenders and civil society.”
The rights groups said Zimbabwean authorities have continued to deny civil society groups the right to assemble without hindrance and done little to investigate violations against human rights defenders.
The use of violence, including beating by baton sticks and the use of teargas and water cannons should be discouraged, they said. Police officials should be trained in crowd control methods in accordance with the UN Basic Principles on the use of force and firearms.
Permanent secretary in the Justice ministry Virginia Mabhiza, has claimed government has made major efforts to protect human rights.
“I can say we have done a lot as the government of Zimbabwe with our first point being the enactment of the new Constitution,” Mabhiza said.
“Our Constitution has always been hailed for its expansive Bill of Rights which is justifiable, where the citizens have the rights to take government to court for non-implementation on what the Constitution provides for.”
The permanent secretary also attributed the establishment of independent constitutional commissions to the ministry’s concerted effort in improving human rights in the country.
“The Human Rights Commission is fully independent, up and running, we are also working towards the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission whose principles have been to Cabinet, I am told the Bill is now at an advanced stage of presentation,” she said.
“The Gender Commission is now in force and commissioners have taken oaths of office. These are some of the milestones that we have since achieved, with the whole idea being to improve the human rights situation.”
Since imposing sanctions in 2002 over electoral fraud and human rights abuses, the EU has eased measures to encourage political reform in Zimbabwe, although it has kept its ban on President Robert Mugabe and his wife Grace, as well as an arms embargo.
Zim’s human rights record under UN gaze
Source: Daily News