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ZHRF submissions on the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission Bill 2011
Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum
July 26, 20
11

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Introduction

A National Human Rights Commission plays a pivotal role in the universality, interdependence, inter-relatedness and indivisibility of human rights as well as the maintenance of good governance. It follows therefore that its mandate should be broad and outlive the current pre-occupation of the society. The need for the Commission to be accepted by the populace and to be in a position to form part of the daily lives of citizens is what should always remain at its forefront.

The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission Bill (the Bill) was gazetted on 10 June 2011. According to the long title, the Act is to:"Provide for the procedure of the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission, . . . the appointment of the Deputy Chairperson, Executive Secretary and Staff of the Commission; and to provide for matters incidental to or connected with the foregoing."

The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum (the Forum) affirms the need for the Commission to have a legislative and a constitutional base. In this regard, the Forum welcomes the gazetting of the Bill; particularly in consideration of the fact that the Commission has not been operational more that a year after its establishment, due to the absence of an enabling Act. The Forum hopes that the Commission would be given the competence and responsibilities such that would enable it to promote and protect the human rights of all citizens. It would therefore be desirable that the enabling Act adequately capacitates the Commission.

Ideal legislative framework for the Commission

The Forum submits that the independence of the Commission should be the integral part of any legislative framework for the institution. The principles adopted by the United Nations Resolutions General Assembly1 relating to status of National Institutions (Paris Principles) should be applied as the minimum standards for ensuring the independence and effective functioning of national human rights institutions such as the Commission. Suffice it to mention that compliance with these minimum standards is a condition for accreditation before international institutions such as the African Union and the United Nations. The Paris Principles provides that "a national institution shall be vested with competence to promote and protect human rights'' and further that it " . . . .shall be given as broad mandate as possible, which shall be clearly set forth in a constitutional and legislative text, specifying its composition and its sphere of competence".

The ideal framework should therefore empower the Commission to be able to:

  • Adopt complaints procedures based on the principles of accessibility, transparency, accountability and efficiency;
  • Adopt complaints procedures that are just and fair, with the status of the procedures and reasons for decisions to be given to all complainants, and accessible to all victims of human rights;
  • Follow up on the implementation of their recommendations and decisions;
  • Intervene in relevant cases before the courts;
  • Initiate investigations into the human rights violations; and
  • Compel the presence of witnesses and the production of evidence;
  • Encourage ratification of international human rights instruments and ensure that domestic laws are in line with these laws.

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