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‘Rights commission needs more independence’


The Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Justice, Legal Affairs and Constitutional Affairs and the Thematic Committee on Human Rights yesterday presented their report on the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) Bill, demanding changes to some of the clauses in the draft.

Justice and Legal Affairs minister Patrick Chinamasa had brought the Bill for the Second Reading Stage before the House of Assembly.

Before presenting the report, committee chairman Douglas Mwonzora blasted the violence during the ZHRC Bill public hearing at Parliament Building, Chinhoyi, Mutare and Masvingo and warned political parties to respect Parliament as one of the three arms of the State.

But, contributing on the provisions of the Bill, Mwonzora said the term “human rights violation” was narrow and too restrictive.

“The scope of human rights violations should cover all issues covered by international human rights instruments which Zimbabwe is party to,” he said.

“The Commission should also be given the power to inspect prisons and other places of detention and submit their reports and/or recommendations to Parliament. The appointment of the Deputy Chairperson of the Commission should be done by the Commission itself and not by the President because this invites a lot of Executive influence and possible politicisation.”

He said the functions of the Commission as set in the Bill brought by Chinamasa were limited and the independence of the Commission should be wide that its reports should be filed before Parliament and human rights treaty bodies but not to the minister.

The committee said they were unhappy about too much influence bestowed on Chinamasa in relation to staffing of the ZHRC and its functioning.
“Provisions should exist in the Constitution which protect the institutional independence of the ZHRC in a similar manner as there is a protective provision relating to the Judiciary and the Attorney-General,” Mwonzora said.

He said recommendations by Zimbabweans on the ZHRC were that it should look at cases of violation dating back to 1980 as opposed to Chinamasa’s cut-off period of February 13, 2009, as well as violations that occurred on victims not recognised as visitors in order to protect vulnerable groups like refugees.

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