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Operation Murambatsvina - Countrywide evictions of urban poor - Index of articles
Murambatsvina: Implications with regard to Zimbabwe's human rights obligations
Rights Trust of Southern Africa (SAHRIT)
July 18, 2005
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The Human Rights Trust of Southern Africa (SAHRIT) is seriously
concerned by the recent gross violations of human rights attendant
on what the government has referred to as a clean up exercise; codenamed
Operation Murambatsvina (Restore Order). We associate ourselves
with the views expressed by all those who have made the point that this
operation is callous in its form, content and effect. What concerns us
more is what appears to be a deliberate attempt by some sections of the
media to misinform the public on the true nature of this operation as
well as an apparent concerted effort by some government officials to disguise
the full extent and effect of this operation.
This statement, for
the benefit of the public, seeks to make it clear and unequivocal that
what is in issue are the human rights obligations on the Government of
Zimbabwe. The obligations that we refer to are of a legal nature and are
binding on the State. More specifically, what is in issue is not just
the status of legality of the structures that have been destroyed or continue
to be destroyed, rather what is being impugned as repugnant is the inappropriateness
of the national laws that are being relied upon to carry out this exercise
relative to the context of the obligations voluntarily assumed by the
Government under the United Nations Charter and various regional and international
human rights instruments to which it is party. We find both the process
and the outcome of this exercise objectionable.
Further we wish to
make plain the fact that human rights are no longer the preserve of national
governments; this now being a matter of legitimate international concern.
To this end the arguments that Operation Murambatsvina is purely an internal
matter notwithstanding the human rights dimension of the exercise is misplaced.
The concept of human rights, universal as it is, is anchored on respect
for human dignity. Human dignity is inherent and inalienable to life;
it cannot be taken away even temporarily on the basis of by laws as is
being suggested by the government. Our government cannot plead its national
law to avoid peremptory obligations arising out of international law.
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