Honorable Chairperson, Commissioners, the Secretary of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and distinguished participants, the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum (the Forum) remains concerned that human rights violations have not subsided in Zimbabwe despite the Power Sharing Agreement of 15 September 2008 between ZANU PF and the two MDC formations which resulted in the inclusive government.
Persecution of Human Rights Defenders and political activists, and selective application of the law remain rife. Between September 2008 and December 2008 Human Rights Defender and Board Member of the Forum, Ms Jestina Mukoko and several political activists belonging to the MDC were abducted from their homes, kept incommunicado, tortured and subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment. Today, they face very serious charges yet their abductors
and torturers roam the streets freely, and the Minister of State Security has even placed them outside the reach of the law by filing papers in court that bar the disclosure of their identities.
The formation of the inclusive government did not bring an end to civic repression as witnessed by the continued heavy-handedness with which the police handled the protests that took place in the month of February. Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) and Men of Zimbabwe Arise (MOZA) took to the streets on three occasions in Harare and Bulawayo encouraging Zimbabweans to “let love lead the way” and protesting against the collapse of the education system while delivering a petition to the Minister responsible for education, Senator David Coltart. On all three occasions members were arrested, detained and some assaulted for exercising their civic liberty to assemble. Two lawyers were also wrongfully arrested in Harare following a WOZA march to the Ministry of Education on allegations that they were taking photographs of the march.
Honorable Chairperson, the Forum is greatly concerned by the upsurge in incidences of retributive violence and violence erupting after attempts by MDC supporters and activists to claim property lost to known and suspected ZANU PF supporters during the bloody 2008 electoral period. The Forum is deeply disturbed by the selective application of the law manifested through the arrest of MDC supporters only when it is clear, even from state media reports, that the violence is from both sides and at times, provoked by ZANU PF supporters. It is thus imperative for mechanisms that address past human rights abuses to be set up under the auspices of transitional justice. There is a demonstrable need for these mechanisms to deal with electoral violence dating back to 2000 and also to address other human rights abuses that have taken place in the past.
New farm invasions have been reported in various parts of the country. The attendant human rights violations such as assault have also been recorded. This has gone contrary to the spirit of the GPA which created the Inclusive Government and, indeed, against Zimbabwe’s obligations as enshrined in the African Charter. The said farm invasions cannot be justified by any provisions of the law as alleged by the Government of Zimbabwe.
Civil society organizations have continuously monitored the implementation of the GPA. In its first report (report available on request), it has established that there are more instances of violations rather than compliance with human rights principles. The Forum recognizes that since the AU is a guarantor to the GPA, the African Commission, as an organ of the AU now has more responsibility in ensuring that principles of human rights are complied by. The Forum calls upon the African Commission to urge the Inclusive Government of Zimbabwe to take steps to ensure justice and reparation for the victims of political and state sponsored violence as well as to ensure an end to all forms of political discrimination and intimidation. The Forum further calls on the African Commission to seek authority to conduct
a fact-finding mission to Zimbabwe for a wholesome assessment of the implementation of the GPA particularly since they are guarantors of the Agreement.