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New approach towards Zimbabwe discussed at IBAHRI roundtable
International Bar Association's Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI)

September 22, 2011

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The International Bar Association's Human rights Institute (IBAHRI) urges Zimbabwe to respect the provisions of the Global Political Agreement (GPA) - which led to the current power-sharing arrangement in Zimbabwe - and to finalise a 'road map' with clear timelines for full implementation of the GPA. This is the paramount message of a report released at a high-level panel discussion in Johannesburg, South Africa, where the overriding focus of the debate was that it is time for a change in Zimbabwe and time for a change towards Zimbabwe, with an emphasis on constructive engagement by the international community.

Speakers at the panel discussion held on 21 September 2011 to discuss the findings and recommendations of the report, Zimbabwe: time for a new approach, and the future of Zimbabwe, three years on from the GPA, included Unity Dow, former justice of the High Court of Botswana; Sternford Moyo, IBAHRI Co-Chair; and Nicole Fritz, Executive Director, Southern Africa Litigation Centre.

The 60-page IBAHRI report illustrates how the rule of law is still under threat in Zimbabwe in many areas and how the issues of the independence of the judiciary and Attorney-General, and justice for victims of violence during the 2008 elections remain unaddressed. The IBAHRI report, calls upon the African Union (AU) to conduct a comprehensive assessment of violence and related matters in Zimbabwe, and to assess whether conditions are conducive to free and fair elections.

Sternford Moyo, IBAHRI Co-Chair and former president of the Zimbabwe Law Society, said 'The rule of law must be upheld in Zimbabwe, to ensure that elections are held without repeating the violence seen in 2008. This begins with respecting the terms of the GPA and creating an environment where Zimbabweans feel protected by the law to freely express their opinions and political allegiances.' He added, 'Zimbabwe faces enormous challenges. Adherence to the rule of law and equal treatment for all before the law is central to both the well-being and prosperity of the nation.'

Zimbabwe: time for a new approach makes specific recommendations to the Government of Zimbabwe, the AU and the Southern African Development Community (SADC). These include:

  • The Inclusive Government should make finalisation of the Constitution Parliamentary Affairs Select Committee (COPAC) constitution-writing exercise a priority, including by identifying and utilising available resources and support from the GPA guarantors and the wider international community, so as to enable a process that allows Zimbabweans to express their free will in a referendum;
  • Consideration should be given to creating a new top court, perhaps in the form of a constitutional court;
  • The sections of the Public Order and Security Act (POSA), which oblige political parties to get police permission to hold public meetings, and the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act (CPEA), which permits prosecutorial appeals of bail rulings, should be amended to limit the possibility of misuse;
  • The authorities should publicly condemn and bring an end to partisanship by police officers, including by ending selective application of the law and targeted harassment;
  • SADC and the AU should (i) support the COPAC process and broader GPA reform initiatives through technical and financial assistance, as well as the deployment of personnel from the region where feasible; and (ii) review, in coordination with the political parties, the existing legislative agenda to identify GPA reform priorities that have not been addressed, with a focus on enabling conditions for credible elections.

The report also contains the two following recommendations to the international community, which illustrate a new approach:

  • The UN and EU should remain actively diplomatically engaged in supporting and assisting the efforts of SADC and the AU to facilitate processes and institutions supporting the development of democratic and accountable governance in Zimbabwe; and
  • The EU, US and UK Governments should discuss with SADC and the AU how and when to suspend all sanctions and other measures imposed on Zimbabwe - pending their ultimate abolition - in return for clear progress in implementing the GPA through reforms of key Government institutions and agencies and specific human rights and good governance benchmarks.

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