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Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR)
December 08, 2011
Respect, Promote and Protect Human Rights Defenders and Stabilise
the Operating Environment Before Any Future Election
We, the Members
of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), being deeply committed
to fostering a culture of human rights and respect for the Just
Rule of Law and the proper conduct of democratic, free and fair
elections in Zimbabwe and throughout the African continent, remain
greatly concerned by the disrespect of human rights by state and
non-state actors which continues to undermine the fundamental rights
and freedoms of Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) in Zimbabwe, more
particularly during electoral periods.
With the inevitable
progress towards elections, ZLHR remains greatly apprehensive of
the constricted operating environment for HRDs tainted by executive
excesses, impunity for continued human rights violations, erosion
of the Rule of Law and failure to promote, protect and fulfil human
rights obligations voluntarily assented to by the Government. The
continued denial by state agents of the critical positive role of
HRDs in the country and the refusal to respect, support, protect
and enable them to carry out their legitimate activities is tragic,
moreso given the vital role played by HRDs in the promotion and
protection of fundamental rights and freedoms - be they socio-economic,
cultural or political - particularly during electoral periods.
The role of
HRDs is recognised by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in
Resolution A/RES/53/144 of 1998, commonly referred to as the UN
Declaration on Human Rights Defenders. As a member of the UN, Zimbabwe
is bound by this Declaration, yet continues to exhibit lack of political
will to abide by this important Resolution.
In the last
few years and more particularly since
the 2008 elections, HRDs remain endangered when conducting their
legitimate activities in the country, with their security and safety
becoming more precarious before, during and after elections.
Some of the challenges that have been faced by HRDs include:
security of the person and protection of the law for HRDs through
arbitrary arrests and detention and continued selective application
of the law.
and enforced disappearances of HRDs.
- Cruel, inhuman
and degrading conditions of detention for detainees and HRDs.
In particular, women are denied special detention facilities despite
their biological needs.
- Denial of
pre-trial rights due to administrative actions and other practices
of state and non-state actors, despite their constitutional guarantee.
to the right to fair trial for HRDs due to the poor conditions
of service of Public Prosecutors, which leads to lack of insulation
from political and other manipulation.
violation of freedoms of assembly, association, expression and
violation of privacy rights through unjustified searches of HRDs'
premises and seizure of property.
- Hate speech
and other forms of abuse through the publicly owned but state-controlled
print and electronic media, compromising safety of HRDs.
to security of the person for HRDs due to acts of political violence
instability due to the culture of impunity and non-prosecution
of perpetrators of human rights violations.
concern is the refusal by the Inclusive
Government to embrace key recommendations
made during the Universal Periodic Review of Zimbabwe by the UN
Human Rights Council aimed at taking measures to prevent enforced
disappearances, ensure accountability for past human rights violations
during the 2008 elections and to criminalise torture.
the urgent need, therefore, to take measures to ensure the protection
of HRDs and facilitate their legitimate activities which promote
and advance implementation and fulfilment of human rights obligations
by state and non-state actors, we the Members of ZLHR call upon
the following stakeholders to speedily address the plight of HRDs
by taking the following measures:
- Uphold the
Rule of Law and promote and protect human rights by taking urgent
measures to ratify, domesticate and implement the African Charter
on Democracy, Governance and Elections.
the situation of HRDs in Zimbabwe by observing, respecting and
implementing the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights
Defenders by facilitating review of policies and other administrative
practices which militate against a conducive environment for HRDs
and human rights organisations in general.
- Take urgent
measures to ensure that the rights- including the conditions
of service- of HRDs who are employed by the state such as Public
Prosecutors are addressed to enable them to dispense their duties
that affect the realisation of fundamental freedoms and rights
carry out institutional reforms of key state institutions involved
in justice delivery.
- Take urgent
measures to implement recommendations of the UN Human Rights Council
during Zimbabwe's Universal Periodic Review that affect
on the operating environment of HRDs.
steps to deal proactively in addressing laws that negatively impact
on the implementation of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders
amending or repealing laws that impact on the right to freedom
of assembly, association, expression, access to information, and
movement of HRDs.
the Senate Thematic Committee on Human Rights works closely with
the Portfolio Committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs
to review these laws and progress on implementation of the Universal
Periodic Review recommendations.
- Ensure that,
through its oversight role, there is more accountability by state
actors who continue to violate the fundamental rights and freedoms
- Ensure that
justice is not only done, but is seen to be done, by exhibiting
independence and acting without fear or favour when adjudicating
over matters concerning HRDs.
determine cases affecting HRDs that are pending before the courts
to ensure there is no targeting or victimisation; provide timely
judgements; and provide timely written reasons, where necessary,
to formulate appeals.
perpetrators of human rights violations in a timely and non-partisan
- rather than stifle - prosecutorial discretion of Law Officers
to ensure that cases are pursued only where evidence exists to
professionally prosecute cases
- Cease the
use of "criminal abuse of public office" charges against
Law Officers and Prosecutors.
from affect the fundamental right to liberty of HRDs through arbitrary
and unjustifiable invocation of the constitutionally disputed
section 121 of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act.
- Ensure that
criminal prosecutions that are pursued against HRDs are justified
and not maliciously intended to frustrate and impede them from
carrying out their legitimate activities.
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