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  • Operation Murambatsvina - Countrywide evictions of urban poor - Index of articles

  • Operation Murambatsvina: Implications with regard to Zimbabwe's human rights obligations
    Human 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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