Honorable Chairperson, Commissioners, the Secretary of the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights and invited guests, the Forum would like the African Commission to note that the human rights situation in Zimbabwe has deteriorated drastically since the 40th Session.
The Police continue to periodically arrest and assault human rights defenders and the general public with impunity. The number of incidents of violence by the police has increased exponentially since the beginning of the year. The events surrounding the Save Zimbabwe Prayer Meeting of 11 March 2007 in Harare bear testimony to the brutality by police on civil society, opposition leaders and supporters. Further in March opposition legislator Nelson Chamisa was brutally assaulted by suspected government Security Forces at the Harare airport. None of the perpetrators of these acts of violence, who are known to the government, have been arrested and /or prosecuted but they continue with their actions with increasing impunity. Instead the police opted to cordon off much of the central business district of Harare as they conduct a raid at the MDC headquarters on 28 March 2007. 80 people, including senior MDC officials, are arrested during the raid. The majority of these were only released in June 2007, 72 days after their incarceration.
The law enforcement agents constantly ignore court orders further undermining the powers of the judiciary and the rule of law. The extent to which the law enforcement agents have undermined the judicial process goes beyond the ignoring of court orders and extends to the unlawful interference in the work of legal practitioners. The African Commission is urged to note that legal practitioners have been threatened, arrested and detained whilst in the process of carrying their professional duties. Further in May 2007 polices offices violently thwarted a march by members of the law society to the office of the Attorney General with a petition protesting the arrest and harassment of their colleagues.
The Forum also draws attention of the African Commission to the Zimbabwe government’s continued efforts to close democratic space in the country. In February 2007 the government imposed a three-month ban on political rallies and protests in parts of Harare. The ban was in terms of section 27 (1) of the draconian Public Order and Security Act (POSA). Although the ban was later lifted in June 2007, the police have continued to come down heavily on those engaged in demonstrations or public meetings.
In a further attempt to constrain civil society, the government has through Constitutional amendment 18 introduced a Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission. This was being opposed by NGOs and they will continue to do so until government amends some of it oppressive legislation such as the POSA, and the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act(AIPPA).
Finally it would be imprudent to talk about the human rights situation in Zimbabwe without a brief on the SADC initiated talks. The people of Zimbabwe demand for a people-driven constitutional process, work towards transitional justice, the holding of free and fair elections under international supervision, and the implementation of the recommendations from international human rights bodies. The Forum is however concerned that the process is neither transparent nor participatory, the parties have been sworn to secrecy, and there is no accountability to the citizens of Zimbabwe. The pillars of democracy can not rest on the shoulders of four men whatever their credentials maybe
Madam Chair the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum urges the African Commission to call upon the Zimbabwe government to fulfill its obligations in terms of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights, on the rights and freedoms of its citizens. The African Commission should also urge the Zimbabwean government to accept and implement various recommendations of this Commission as well as abide by the terms of international law.