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Crisis Report - Issue 243
in Zimbabwe Coalition
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slow domestication of international treaties criticized
A Ugandan judge
at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), Justice Julia Sebutinde,
during a recent visit to Zimbabwe graced a discussion forum held
in Harare to mark the centenary of the Court and scrutinize the
application of international law in the country.
the discussion forum held on Friday 29 November, Justice Sebutinde
left her audience with a powerful and witty allegory.
She said that
if an international treaty were to be equated to a girl, signing
it would be putting the ring on her finger, ratifying it would be
marrying her, and domesticating the treaty would be taking the new
But some countries,
Zimbabwe for instance, like a confused lad would stop mid-way before
taking the object of their desires home.
queried: “What is it that causes a country to sign and ratify
a treaty and not domesticate it?”
a lawyer and academic, presented over-whelming evidence of Zimbabwe’s
half-hearted engagement with international treaties, alleging that
there are “100 instruments that have been signed by government
which have not made any significant strides beyond making their
way to cabinet.”
there were important instruments that the government was not even
willing to sign such as the Rome Statute, which establishes the
International Criminal Court (ICC) and the International Convention
against Torture, adding that many of those treaties that the government
had not ratified remained without domestic effect.
question is how many of these have been actually incorporated into
the domestic law, and the extent thereof,” he said.
that the lawyer cited was Chapter 3 of the old Constitution and
Chapter 4 of new Constitution,
which constituted the respective Bills of Rights, which were influenced
by foregoing “international conventions and the jurisprudence
of the tribunals established to interpret them.”
He said the
as derived from the Covenant Eight of the International Convention
on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and Children’s Act
as derived from the Convention on the rights of the Child may have
also been influenced by international law.
the pending alignment of old laws with the new Constitution should
be taken as an opportunity to bring domestic laws in conformity
with international laws that Zimbabwe is bound by as required by
is that government will take the opportunity to start the finalizing
of all these outstanding instruments and actually craft laws that
speak to the international norms and standards that we have subscribed
to,” Mugabe said.
Chinhengo, a former High Court Judge and one of the drafters of
the new Constitution, said some of the delays were caused by the
onerous task of changing policies, and the intractable conflict
between international conventions and parts of the customary law
it might explain why countries take longer,” Justice Chinhengo
said. “I don’t exclude the possibility that States go
along with others [to sign the treaties] when they do not mean it.”
Mrs Msika, who stood in for the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry
of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, blamed lack of capacity
in government to speedily domesticate international conventions
the reasons is that the responsibility of ratifying and domesticating
used to be fragmented to different minis-tries,” Mrs Msika
said. “And you find that in those ministries there may not
be a person who has the capacity, or is aware of ratifying and domesticating
In a speech
read on her behalf, Virginia Mabiza, the Permanent Secretary in
the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs said the
government had come up with an Inter-ministerial Committee resident
in the ministry to deal with the issue.
advises government on its obligations in international human rights
and humanitarian law and coordinates the ministries in ratification
and domestication as well as compiling reports on the progress.
Three weeks ago, Mabiza said, a strategy was devised “to ensure
effective promotion and protection of human rights in Zimbabwe.”
the apparent disdain of the government towards international human
rights norms and standards, many people will only be convinced of
its ability to adhere to the noble tenets after seeing a true change
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