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Statement on the human rights situation in Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum
October 24, 20
11

Honourable Chairperson, Commissioners, the Secretary of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights; heads of Government delegations, civil society representatives, invited guests, ladies and gentlemen.

Honourable Chairperson, the economic environment continues to improve under the Government of National Unity consummated in February 2009, following the September 2008 signing of the Global Political Agreement (GPA) by the three political parties, which are parties to the GPA. However many of the conditions agreed to by the principals remain unresolved. Political violence remains a cause for grave concern as the government continues to violate the rights and freedoms enshrined in the Charter. During the intersession, the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum has recorded 191 cases of political violence whilst its member organisation the Zimbabwe Peace Project recorded 3 588 cases of politically motivated human rights and food related violations from May to August 2011. These violations have been perpetrated mainly though not exclusively by state agents and their ancillaries, party cadres and youth militia. The situation of human rights defenders has not improved. They continue to be harassed during the course of carrying out their legitimate work. Political party activists or members of the security services have disrupted outreach programmes by several civic society organisations with the acquiescence or collaboration of the state. For example, Zimbabwean civic society activists were harassed in Namibia at the Southern African Development Community summit at the behest of the Zimbabwean authorities, following an attempt to deliver a petition to SADC leaders calling on them to lay out pre-conditions for democratic elections in Zimbabwe.

Journalists face safety and security risks. Journalists have been assaulted, sometimes at high security public events in the presence of police officers. In September, at the Parliament Building, Harare, at the public hearing of the Human Rights Commission Bill, political party activists assaulted journalists covering the event.

There is selective application of the law by the police. Illustration of this is the arrest and subsequent detention of 10 civil society activists on 27 July 2011 at the High Court of Zimbabwe in Harare. The 10, all members of the Restoration of Human Rights-Zimbabwe, were arrested while protesting against the continued detention of the Glenview residents who had been arrested and detained for allegedly murdering a police officer. In a similar incident on 23 July 2011, the police failed to take any action against ZANU-PF supporters who besieged Parliament building and disrupted the public hearings for the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission Bill.

Honourable Chairperson, we have noted that the past 2 years have witnessed a reduction in cases of overt political violence compared with 2008. For this reduction, we acknowledge the role of the inclusive government; the role of the regional and international community in reigning in the excesses of the Government of Zimbabwe and the efforts of Zimbabweans themselves in containing this violence. Despite this political violence however remains, and has been exacerbated by the expectation of elections in 2012. Law enforcement agencies still perpetrate political violence and collaborate with violent political party activists. A trend has developed in Zimbabwe where violence peaks during election periods making it problematic for the holding of free and fair elections. We fear that any elections before key electoral and political reforms will result in increased political violence.

Honourable Chairperson whilst we welcome the swearing in of Commissioners for the Human Rights Commission, the Media Commission, the Anti-Corruption Commission and the Electoral Commission, it is sad to note that none of these is fully operational. There are indications in the existing Human Rights Commission Bill that it will not fully comply with the Paris Principles, that it will be subject to government intervention and will only address post 2009 atrocities thus ignoring one of the worst eras of political violence in Zimbabwe (the pre and post 2008 harmonised elections).

We also welcome government's engagement with civil society organisations during preparations for the UN Periodic Review. However, it is disturbing to note that out of a total of 179 recommendations made by the UN Human Rights Council at its Universal Periodic Review of Zimbabwe the Government of Zimbabwe accepted 81, rejected 67 and said it would consider 31 recommendations.

The enjoyment of economic and cultural rights is largely constrained by lack of finance. These include adequate living standards, social security, health, education, employment and housing. The Government of Zimbabwe has established special funds for women, youth and indigenization enterprises but has failed to provide adequate housing for the victims of the 2005 Operation Murambatsvina in compliance with the recommendations of the UN special Envoy of the Secretary General for Human Settlement

Recommendations

We call upon the African Commission to put effective measures under its protective mandate and to urge the Government of Zimbabwe to:

1. Put in place legislative provisions to ensure that the operation of the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission complies with the Paris Principles.
2. Speed up key electoral reforms in order to create a conducive environment for free and fair elections.

Visit the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum fact sheet

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