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  • Zimbabwe: Ongoing risks for human rights defenders in the context of political deadlock and pre-electoral period
    Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (OBS)

    November 26, 2012

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    A vibrant civil society is a crucial part of any democratic society's development, in all spheres including human rights, and it should be strongly supported even if some of its messages make uncomfortable reading for those in authority 1.

    Ms. Navi Pillay, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, at the end of her first ever mission to Zimbabwe (May 20 to 25, 2012)

    1. Past activities of the Observatory on Zimbabwe

    Over the past few years, the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders - the Observatory - a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), focused its attention on the worrying situation of human rights defenders in Zimbabwe. The latter is still characterized by acute acts of harassments, intimidation and reprisals, including particularly repeated arbitrary arrests and detentions, judicial harassment and acts of torture and ill-treatment as well as obstacles to the exercise of their right to freedoms of association, expression and peaceful assembly.

    In addition to publicly and regularly denouncing the systematic and sustained repression of human rights defenders in Zimbabwe, the Observatory has conducted several fact-finding missions in the country that have shed light on the authorities' determination to systematically silence any kind of protests or criticism regarding Zimbabwe's human rights record.

    In January 2008, the Observatory carried out a fact-finding mission to assess the situation of human rights defenders in the context of high levels of intimidation and violence in the run-up to the March 2008 presidential and legislative elections. The mission report, Run up to the March 29 Presidential and Parliamentary Elections - A Highly Repressive Environment for Human Rights Defenders, described the increasing use of violence by State agents in order to silence political opposition and its perceived supporters, mainly human rights defenders. The Observatory severely condemned the widespread use of force, which was accompanied by, or even relied on, a repressive legislative framework and on a selective enforcement of the laws. In its recommendations, the Observatory urged the Zimbabwean authorities to repeal all restrictive legislations and to take the necessary measures to guarantee the protection of human rights defenders from deaths threats, acts of torture, abductions and disappearances. More generally, the Observatory also called on the authorities to put an immediate end to arbitrary arrests and detentions, surveillance visits by the army, Government-backed militias and Zimbabwe African National Union - Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) supporters and breaking or forcible entry into offices, defamation and media hate propaganda, restriction of movement or restriction on public meetings of human rights defenders.

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