2003 was a very exciting year in the international field, in which the IntLO was able to successfully contribute to a number of events. IntLO focuses on intergovernmental organizations, in particular the AU, Commonwealth, EU and UN.
The most important work was in relation to the Commonwealth, where the beginning of the year saw the maintaining of the suspension of Zimbabwe from the Councils of the organization, a decision which was reiterated by the Heads of Governments’ Meeting in December. This lead to the Zimbabwean Government deciding to withdraw the country from the organization at the end of the year.
On African Union level the focus was on the work of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR). In the first session of the ACHPR in 2003 the Forum was granted observer status. Then the Forum managed to get the first ever Communication critisicing the human rights record on Zimbabwe before the ACHPR. The ACHPR on their session in November decided that our Communication focusing on torture and extra judicial executions in the country was admissible before the ACHPR.
The EU maintained their policy, including travel bans on Zimbabwean Government members, but not without discussions. The French Government invited President Mugabe to the Africa – Franco Summit in Paris just days after the bans expired. However, after some discussions the decision was to prolong the travel bans with a small increase in the numbers banned.
On the fouth main area of lobbying, the UN, was not that successful. Th Forum’s focus was the Uns Human Rights Commission which sits once a year in March and April. In spite of massive lobbying from ourselves and others, the attempt to get the body to consider a resolution on Zimbabwe failed.
The core business of the IntLO is to be a security for materials and a possible refuge for members in headquarters in a worst case scenario. Also in the event of reports found to be too controversial to be launched inside of Zimbabwe the office can be organizing launches internationally.
Backups of the Forum’s databases were brought to London on 2 occations. Other measures were not necessary.
The main work of the IntLO was therefore international lobbying during 2003.
Under this headline, distribution of Forum reports, mainly from the Forum’s research unit, but also from the member organizations, was the main activity. The IntLO has created an email list of persons and organizations that are receiving reports on a regular basis. At the end of the year there were around 800 addresses on the list. These included around 100 government officials and other decision makers, around 400 NGOs, around 100 journalists and around 200 others including many Zimbabweans in the diaspora.
During 2003 IntLO also initiated setting up a network of the persons in the international organizations that work on Zimbabwe. This group now meets regularly in the offices of IntLO to coordinate the work and make joint strategies in relation to international meetings. Around 50 Europe based organizations is part of this network.
The Commonwealth was the main focus of the lobbying work of IntLO in 2003. This since the organization had suspended Zimbabwe from the Councils of the organization in March 2002, a decision which was up for review in March. The Commonwealth due to discuss Zimbabwe at its Heads of Governments’ Meeting (CHOGM) in Abuja in December.
The decision on the continued suspension of Zimbabwe from the Councils of the organization was in the hands of the leading troika of the organization, consisting of the past president of the organization (South Africa’s President), the current president of the organization (Austeralia’s president) and the incoming president of the organization (Nigeria’s president). In the beginning of the year South Africa’s president stated that there was no need for the troika to meet over Zimbabwe as a majority in the troika, himself and Nigeria’s president, agreed that Zimbabwe had been punished enough, and should be welcomed back into the organization when the suspension expired in March. Austeralia’s president pointed out that they were due to make recommendations to the organization and that the decision was for the Secretary General to make in consultation with all the member states. After a flurry of events it was announced that the suspension would be continued until the CHOGM meeting in December.
The Forum thereafter decided to make Commonwealth lobbying a main focus of the work. A document was produced on Zimbabwe’s compliance with their agreements with the Commonwealth. This document was launched in a meeting to which all the Commonwealth Ambassadors were invited in London, to coincide with the second anniversary of the agreement in September. This meeting was very successful with the participation of more than half of the Commonwealth countries, including almost all the SADC countries. The meeting constituted a unique area of possibility of dialogue between the Zimbabwean Government representatives and Commonwealth officials. However, the dialogue was very rough.
The meeting was followed up with contacts with a number of Embassies on their own initiatives, where further information was distributed.
In addition to this closed meeting, we also arranged an open meeting, which had an active participation of around 200.
The Forum also participated at the CHOGM with inputs in the NGO meetings and in the Human Rights workshop organized by the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative.
CHOGM had Zimbabwe as the main point of the agenda throughout its meetings and when the decision to continue the suspension was taken the reaction from the Government of Zimbabwe was almost immediate. They announced they would leave the organization.
The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR)
Of the African Union bodies the IntLO has decided to focus on the ACHPR. In the beginning of 2002 a Communication on the situation in the country focusing on torture and extrajudicial executions was filed with the ACHPR. The lengthy deliberations on admissibility was concluded in November 2003 when the ACHPR unanimously concluded that the Communication would be considered on merit, a process that will hopefully be concluded in 2004, and if, it will be the first Communication on Zimbabwe by the body.
In a parallel move the Forum decided to apply for observer status with the ACHPR. There were minor questions from the Sudanese Commissioner, but the organization was granted observer status in the ACHPR meeting in May 2003.
The Forum was also approached by the ACHPR’s Special Rapporteur on Prison Conditions and conditions in places of detentions, Commissioner Chirwa. She asked if the Forum would be willing to host a her in Zimbabwe if she was able to get an invitation to look at the prison conditions in the country.
The work with the European Union had a lower priority at the beginning of the year, since it was thought that decisions of the Union were in line with what was desired by the Forum and other civil society groups in Zimbabwe. Since the EU introduced travel bans and other targeted sanctions in February 2002, the EU had consistently supported civil society in trying to enhance human rights and democracy in the country. The surprise was therefore big when it was obvious that there was internal discussion around the travel bans when they were up for renewal. IntLO’s contacts recommended increased lobbying ahead of the final decision in February, which was undertaken.
The French was arranging a Franco African Summit in February, to which all African Presidents were invited. In spite of the controversy, also Mugabe was invited. Several CSO groups sent delegations to Paris to protest, but to no avail. Mugabe came to the meeting.
However, in a separate move they agreed to support an extension of the travel bans and other targeted sanctions against the Zimbabwean regime in a compromise decision in late January.
IntLO therefore decided to continue monitoring the situation in the EU and to establish more regular contacts with EU countries less favourable to these measures.
Also the IntLO continued its focus on institutions where the EU cooperates with African countries, in particular the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly.
The Forum was represented at both of the parliamentary assemblies in 2003. In its October assembly IntLO hosted a lunch for the ACP delegates which was well attended in spite of efforts from the Zimbabwean delegates to limit the participation.
The United Nations
The work with the United Nations is in its infancy stages for the IntLO. It ws decided to support efforts to try to get the UN Human Rights Commission to consider a resolution on the situation in Zimbabwe.
The IntLO got together a delegation to the Commission meeting in March, but our efforts did not breed any success. The attempt was lost in a vote of no action, by a slim majority, but still lost.
However, the Forum had a meeting for the delegations which had considerable participation, and where a lot of support was expressed.
The Forum delegation also included support for the Brazilian resolution on sexual orientation and one of the delegates spoke on an international NGO meeting in favour of this resolution. However, it was withdrawn by the Brazilians as it was obviously not getting enough support.
Other issues, including marking of 26 June
26 June is the international day in support of torture victims. IntLO marked the day in 2002 and decided to continue this in 2003.
A Church Service was held in St Martin’s in the Field, where torture victims gave testimonies. This was followed by a procession to the Zimbabwean (then) High Commission, where a demonstration was held. It was reasonably successful with around 150 persons attending the Church service.
Of other events in the UK linked to Zimbabwe, the Forum brought participants to see politicians of all the major political parties, including the Minister for Africa, Hon. Chris Mullin. IntLO did not participate in the many events organized by Zimbabweans in the diaspora, except that we lent support to the End the Silence demonstration aimed at the 10th Anniversary celebrations of the South African High Commission in October.
The IntLO is being hosted in London by the international NGO Article 19, which also provides other support of an administrative carachter.
During the year the IntLO was staffed by a coordinator and in addition, during parts of the year by an administrator.