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Home-grown constitution the answer, say lawyers
The Zimbabwe Independent
March 31, 2006

http://www.theindependent.co.zw/viewinfo.cfm?linkid=11&id=469&siteid=1

ZIMBABWE Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) has said Zimbabwe needs a new home-grown constitution and not piecemeal amendments to the supreme law.

In a hard-hitting statement, ZLHR accused the state of "mutilating the bill of rights" through frequent amendments.

"The amendment to the Constitution of Zimbabwe to establish the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission adds to the numerous constitutional amendments which have created a mutilated bill of rights and a proverbial constitution which does not espouse the principles of constitutionalism," it said.

The National Constitutional Assembly, which for the past seven years has been fighting for a new constitution, also joined in, accusing government of tinkering with the constitution to establish a Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission

"The NCA rejects a partisan rights commission designed merely to serve as an additional bureaucratic ruling to prevent and delay Zimbabweans from mounting human rights complaints in the international arena which offers their only hope," the NCA said in a statement. "The NCA fears that such an amendment will also serve as a vehicle for more sinister amendments designed to keep the government's grip on power."

ZLHR said government should refrain from manipulating and implementing piecemeal amendments which negate the need for broad-based and inclusive consultation with all stakeholders.

"To establish a human rights commission in the prevailing legislative and administrative operating environment without corresponding and simultaneous changes to the current repressive laws is tantamount to deception and attempts to create illusory remedial institutions," the lawyers said. "Such a process will compound the human rights situation in the country. The commission will be a white elephant if institutions, laws and state- sponsored practices are not revisited."

ZLHR said Zimbabwe should do away with laws which restrict the fundamental rights of assembly, association, expression and movement before establishing a human rights commission. These include the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, the Broadcasting Services Act and the Public Order and Security Act. - Staff Writer.

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