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Center, ZLHR and NGO Forum highlight recent pattern of suppression
in Zimbabwe at African Commission
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR)
The Robert F.
Kennedy Center for Justice & Human Rights (RFK Center), Zimbabwe
Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), and the Zimbabwe
Human Rights NGO Forum (NGO Forum) hosted a gathering of over
50 of Africa’s top human rights advocates in Banjul, The Gambia
yesterday to discuss the current shrinking space for civil society
The event, held
on the sidelines of the NGO Forum in advance of this week’s
session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights (ACHPR),
convened a expert panel that included Dzimbabwe Chimbga (ZLHR),
Susan Mutambasere (NGO Forum), Mabassa Fall (International Federation
for Human Rights, FIDH), Hassan Shire (Pan-African Human Rights
Defenders Network), and Wade McMullen (RFK Center).
troubles from 2008-9 have returned," noted Chimbga, "Over
400 human rights defenders have been targeted by the government
in various ways in recent months." The RFK Center's recent
high-level delegation to Zimbabwe echoed the sentiment of the panel,
finding systemic repression of civil society in violation of Zimbabwe’s
international obligations under the African Charter on Human and
People's Rights and the International Covenant for Civil and Political
Rights (ICCPR), and the Southern African Development Community (SADC)
Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections. During
the RFK Center visit, several additional concerns arose with regularity,
including: a general lack of progress on reforms outlined in the
Agreement; increased intimidation, threats, and violence against
civil society; and violations of the rights to freedom of expression
and access to information.
Staff Attorney for the RFK Center, added deep concerns regarding
the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly as Zimbabwe
cracks down on any group seemingly critical of the government. In
recent months Zimbabwe has banned
shortwave radios and suppressed the rights of groups such as Women
of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) to engage in peaceful protest and public
demonstration. "There is a clear pattern of violation of these
fundamental rights protected by the African
Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights and other international
treaties," McMullen said, "In turn, this pattern of suppression
imperils the rights of all Zimbabweans to participate freely in
the government of their country."
issues were brought to the fore in the ensuing discussion, including
the need for solidarity across the African continent and international
community in advance of the impending elections in Zimbabwe. In
response, pledges of solidarity, information sharing, and technical
support came from across the region, including from human rights
advocates in Kenya, Malawi, Senegal, South Africa, Swaziland, and
Uganda. In particular, the discussion highlighted the need of SADC
to both monitor and ensure that Zimbabwe’s electoral environment
is free and fair in the months leading up to the vote.
The human rights
activists gathered in Banjul advocated for a strong response from
the African Commission on the issue of Zimbabwe. As a result of
the side event, a resolution was passed by the entire NGO Forum,
requesting that the African Commission more effectively engage on
the issue of Zimbabwe, and, among other specific actions, to follow
up on the Commission’s provisional measures recently promulgated
demanding that Zimbabwe allow members of the diaspora to vote in
the 2013 elections.
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