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NGO Bill - Index of Opinion and Analysis
NGO Act is an outrageous attack on human rights
AI Index: AFR 46/039/2004 (Public)
News Service No: 318
December 10, 2004
is outraged at the enactment, yesterday, of a new law, which bans
foreign human rights organizations from working in Zimbabwe and
could be used to close down local human rights groups.
"The law is a direct attack on human rights in Zimbabwe and should
be immediately repealed," Kolawole Olaniyan, Director of Amnesty
International’s Africa Program, urged today, International Human
The Non-governmental Organizations Act (NGO Act) specifically targets
organizations that "promote and protect human rights". The Act also
gives the government sweeping powers to interfere with the operations
of any NGO in Zimbabwe through a government-appointed NGO Council.
Under the Act, Zimbabwean NGOs are prohibited from receiving any
foreign funding to engage in human rights work.
"Preventing local NGOs from receiving foreign funding for human
rights work would effectively mean the end of many vital human rights
programs, as there is so little local funding available," Kolawole
Olaniyan said. "This Act is a disaster for victims of human rights
violations and human rights defenders. It is wholly inconsistent
with Zimbabwe's obligations under international human rights laws
to which it is party. We have grave fears that those organizations
that have done most to raise awareness of the human rights situation
in Zimbabwe will now be targeted for closure," he added.
Amnesty International believes that the legislation will be applied
selectively, as has been the case with other repressive legislation
introduced over the last four years. The Media Information Commission
established by the 2002 Access to Information and Protection of
Privacy Act (AIPPA) has already overseen severe repression of independent
media in Zimbabwe.
"If the NGO Act is enforced across the board, tens of thousands
of people being assisted by NGO programs could suffer. Reputable
and dedicated human rights organizations in Zimbabwe provide vital
medical and psychological care and legal advice to victims of human
rights violations. Most victims have nowhere else to turn in a country
where unemployment is above 70 per cent and the health service has
been severely eroded," Kolawole Olaniyan said.
The NGO Act replaces the Private Voluntary Organizations (PVO) Act,
itself a very repressive law introduced during the colonial period.
Amnesty International is calling for the immediate repeal of the
NGO Act. Any legislation governing the operation of NGOs must be
consistent with Zimbabwe's human rights obligations.
On 9 December 2004 the Parliament of Zimbabwe also enacted the Zimbabwe
Electoral Commission Act and the Criminal Law Codification and Reform
Act, both of which also contain clauses that violate internationally
recognized human rights.
For more information please call Amnesty International's press office
in London, UK, on +44 20 7413 5566
Amnesty International, 1 Easton St., London WC1X 0DW. web: http://www.amnesty.org
For latest human rights news view http://news.amnesty.org
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