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NGO Bill - Index of Opinion and Analysis
Criticizes Zimbabwe legislation on Human Rights Groups
December 10, 2004
The United States Friday said legislation approved by Zimbabwe's
parliament curbing human rights and other non-governmental groups
would stifle political debate in the African country. It urged President
Robert Mugabe not to sign the measure.
approved by the parliament in Harare late Thursday would effectively
outlaw foreign, or foreign-supported, human rights and other non-governmental
groups, or NGO's, from operating in Zimbabwe.
Since most groups of this kind, including church-affiliated organizations
in Zimbabwe, receive at least some funding from abroad, the measure
could result in the shutdown of hundreds of NGO's, and the pending
law has spurred a wave of domestic and foreign criticism.
At a news briefing,
State Department Deputy Spokesman Adam Ereli said the measure, if
signed into law by President Mugabe, would stifle political debate
and the exercise of civil liberties in Zimbabwe. "In our view, this
bill is an assault on civil society, and an attempt to curtail political
discussion in Zimbabwe. It is yet another sign that the government
of Zimbabwe may not be serious about holding free and fair parliamentary
elections in March 2005. And we call on President Mugabe not to
sign this bill," he said.
Mr. Ereli said
the bill would bar international human rights groups from operating
in Zimbabwe, and prohibit domestic groups working on human rights
issues from receiving foreign funding of any source, including from
Zimbabweans living overseas.
He said it would set up a mechanism for oversight of NGO's that
would be highly intrusive and subject to political manipulation.
the subject of frequent U.S. criticism, has accused foreign-backed
civic groups of being conduits of interference in his country's
of the pending law, including legislators from the main opposition
party, the Movement for Democratic Change or MDC, say that, when
the law becomes effective, the Mugabe government intends to move
against a list of prominent groups supporting human rights and democratic
have denied the measure targets specific groups, and have said organizations
would get several months to comply with registration and other new
requirements, before the government acted against them.
The MDC Secretary-General,
Welshman Ncube, said the law threatens to push Zimbabwe into what
he termed the dark ages.
representing Zimbabwean NGO.'s warns it could lead to the closure
of most such groups and the loss of thousands of jobs and incomes.
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