The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum (the Forum) joins the rest of Africa in celebrating Africa Human Rights Day on 21 October and the 20th anniversary of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Commission). The African Commission is a body set up to promote, protect and monitor the implementation of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights (African Charter). Zimbabwe signed and ratified the African Charter in 1986 and is legally bound by its provisions.
The Forum has interacted with the African human rights system in the quest for the promotion and protection of human rights in Zimbabwe. The Forum and several other Zimbabwean human rights organisations have filed complaints averring breach of various provisions of the African Charter. These complaints are under consideration by the African Commission.
The first communication by the Forum was filed in 2002 and finalised in 2005. The communication alleged human rights violations by the Government of Zimbabwe during the Fast Track Land Reform Programme, the 2000 Parliamentary Elections and the 2002 Presidential Elections. The Government of Zimbabwe was given a right of reply in all the proceedings. The African Commission found the Government of Zimbabwe (GoZ) in violation of articles 1 and 7 of the African Charter.
This means that the GoZ had violated the right to protection of the law and that it failed to put in place measures to ensure the enjoyment of these rights by Zimbabweans. The African Commission called on “the Zimbabwean Government to establish a Commission of Inquiry to investigate, the causes of the violence that took place from February – June 2000 and bring those responsible for violence to justice and identify the victims of the violence in order to provide them with just and adequate compensation”.
The Forum notes that the GoZ has not complied with the recommendation of the African Commission to set up bodies to enquire into the violence that occurred in 2002. Consequently, no prosecutions, compensation or any rehabilitation of the victims has been occurred.. The Forum therefore urges the GoZ to take measures to comply with the recommendations of the African Commission.
In other engagements with Zimbabwe, the African Commission undertook a Fact Finding Mission (hereinafter referred to as the Mission) to Zimbabwe from 24 – 28 June 2002 following what the Mission report describes as widespread reports of human rights violations in Zimbabwe. The Mission concluded, “there was enough evidence placed before us to suggest that, at the very least during the period under review, human rights violations occurred in Zimbabwe and that Government cannot wash its hands from responsibility for all these happenings”. The mission made a number of recommendations that included among others, the need for creating an environment conducive to democracy and human rights, the need to strengthen the independence of the judiciary and the need to have a professional police service.
The Forum notes with regret that these recommendations have not been implemented by the GOZ. Human rights violations and cases of impunity continue to be perpetrated by the police and other state agents. Violence, abductions and illegal arrests continue to be used by the police against civil society activists, human rights defenders and members of the opposition. Cumulative totals for January 2007 to August 2007 show that there have been 525 cases of torture, 1 246 of unlawful arrest and detention and 2 304 violations of the right to freedom of expression, association and movement.
The Forum notes that, despite the SADC mediated talks currently ongoing between ZANU PF and the two MDCs, the political environment remains unstable and human rights violations persist to the ordinary Zimbabweans who wish to participate in legal political and civic activities.
The African Commission has passed resolutions on the situation of human rights in Zimbabwe. These have recommended the repealing of repressive legislation such as the Public Order and Security Act (POSA), Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) and the Broadcasting Services Act (BSA), which stifle democratic space and civic participation. Regrettably, all of these pieces of legislation are still in operation.
As Africa celebrates African Human Rights Day, the Forum exhorts the GoZ to abide by its obligations embodied in the African Charter. The Human Rights Forum reiterates the need for the GoZ to take measures to stop acts of torture, repeal repressive legislation, and generally uphold human rights.