THE NGO NETWORK ALLIANCE PROJECT - an online community for Zimbabwean activists  
 View archive by sector


Back to Index

This article participates on the following special index pages:

  • Index of articles on the mistreatment of the legal profession in Zimbabwe

  • Zimbabwe committing serious violations of the African Charter
    International Bar Association (IBA)
    May 18, 2007

    Visit the special index page on the mistreatment of the legal profession in Zimbabwe

    Download this document
    - Acrobat PDF version (316KB)
    If you do not have the free Acrobat reader on your computer, download it from the Adobe website by clicking here.

    The International Bar Association (IBA)'s Human Rights Institute (HRI), in partnership with Amnesty International; Article 19; Human Rights Watch and Redress, have released a joint report strongly contesting the content of the submission by the Government of Zimbabwe to the African Commission on Human and People's Rights.

    The IBA HRI's chapter of the joint report, titled 'Attacks on the Rule of Law', counters the Zimbabwean Government's portrayal of recent events in Zimbabwe. The IBA's HRI catalogues how the impartiality of the legal profession in Zimbabwe has been severely compromised through the persistent harassment and intimidation of judges and lawyers. It also emphasises how these attacks on the profession have undermined the authority of the courts, resulting in serious violations of due process and greatly limiting the access Zimbabwean citizens have to the justice system.

    The IBA HRI's chapter of the report further exposes the climate of impunity, and documents, with particular concern, violations of the African Charter committed by Zimbabwe's national police force, including the right to security of person and the right to freedom from arbitrary arrest. The IBA's HRI reminds the Government of Zimbabwe that it is directly responsible for the police force, and that these agents must act in accordance with domestic, regional and international law.

    'The IBA's Human Rights Institute has taken the unprecedented step of joining with other renowned international NGO's to submit this report on Zimbabwe to the African Commission,' stated Mark Ellis, IBA Executive Director. 'I urge the Commission to hold the Zimbabwean Government to account for grave breaches of the Charter. The arbitrary arrests and violent beating of members of the legal profession by the Zimbabwean police this week further compounds the evidence collated in the report,'

    In accordance with Article 62 of the African Charter, member countries are answerable to the African Commission, the institution charged with over seeing the implementation of the Charter, through the submission of periodic reports. These reports provide information on progress made in the protection and promotion of the rights enshrined in the Charter. In its submission to the African Commission in October 2006, the Zimbabwean Government gave a glowing account of its human rights record.

    The report to the African Commission prepared by the IBA's HRI in collaboration with other international non-governmental organisations, aims to provide a realistic portrait of the current situation in Zimbabwe. The Report exposes the failure of the Zimbabwean authorities to comply with obligations under the African Charter and uphold the most fundamental human rights, categorically contesting the Zimbabwean Governments point of view.

    All five contributing organisations contend that the Government of Zimbabwe has failed to protect the rights contained in the African Charter. It is hoped that, despite the positive picture depicted by the Zimbabwean Government in its own submission, such assertions surrounding the country's human rights record will be found to be inconsistent with the realities on the ground. The events of the past month further compound the gravity of the situation and it is hoped that the African Commission will take this opportunity to strongly condemn the violations highlighted in this report and hold the Zimbabwean Government to account for the serious breaches of the Charter.


    Violations of the right to freedom from discrimination, the right to life and the right to property are outlined in Chapter 1 by Human Rights Watch. The chapter details how these rights have been repeatedly swept aside under the fast-track land reform programme initiated in 2000, and in Operation Murambatsvina in 2005.

    Chapter 2, written by the International Bar Association's Human Rights Institute, demonstrates how the principles of the rule of law and the independence of the courts in Zimbabwe have been severely compromised through intimidation of judges and lawyers. This has undermined the courts' jurisdiction and authority and resulted in discrimination in the application of the law.

    Despite the prohibition of torture under international law, including the African Charter, and the Constitution of Zimbabwe, Redress submits in Chapter 3 that the government of Zimbabwe has systematically used torture on a huge scale. Perpetrators include the army, law enforcement agencies and other state agents including so-called 'war veterans'. The risk of further torture for those who dare to report such violations and the refusal by authorities to investigate has left victims without remedy or reparation.

    Chapter 4, by Amnesty International, details how the government of Zimbabwe has repeatedly violated the rights to freedom of association and assembly in order to curtail peaceful criticism of the government from the public, civil society organizations and the political opposition. A combination of excessive use of force by the police and repressive legislation such as the Public Order and Safety Act (POSA) has been employed to silence dissent.

    Finally, Chapter 5, by Article 19, highlights the shortcomings of the state report's description of Zimbabwe's record on freedom of expression. It details the effects of restrictive legislation on journalists, newspapers and broadcasters. This chapter also shows how the government of Zimbabwe has clashed with the Supreme Court over unconstitutional moves such as the state monopoly on broadcasting.


    The shadow report was produced by the International Bar Association's Human Rights Institute working with following five human rights organizations Amnesty International; Article 19; Human Rights Watch; Redress; and Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum. Each chapter was written independently, but they have been collated to facilitate easy consideration by the African Commission.

    Download full document 

    Please credit if you make use of material from this website. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License unless stated otherwise.