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Human Rights Bill faces resistance

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The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission Bill, which is under debate before Parliament, faces fierce opposition from the MDC-T and human rights groups who are reportedly uneasy with its contents.

The Bill went through its first reading last week and is being scrutinised by the Parliamentary Legal Committee to ascertain its compliance with the Constitution.

MDC-T chief whip Innocent Gonese yesterday said they welcomed the fact that such a Bill which seeks to operationalise the Human Rights Commission had been brought before Parliament by the Executive, but warned the Bill had clauses that might hinder the full independence of the commission.

“As Parliament, we do not want to just accept everything coming from the Executive because we want to adhere by what people said during public hearings conducted by the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs,” said Gonese.

“Our concerns centre around the issue that the Bill gives too much power to the Minister of Justice and we believe that the Human Rights Commission should operate as an independent entity,” he said.

The other issue was the fact that the Bill sought to limit the period within which abuses could be investigated to three years.

“What it means is that even the human rights violations that happened during the June 2008 presidential election violence cannot be investigated if the cut-off point for complaints is three years. The commission should be able to investigate all human rights violations which happened even before independence,” Gonese said.

He said the commission’s powers should be widened and that his party was unhappy that the Bill gives excessive powers to the President who can appoint and fire commissioners at will.

Gonese said that clause was open to manipulation.

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