ENVIRONMENTAL lobby groups have accused the judiciary and law enforcement agents of having a low appreciation of environmental human rights violations, hence delays in prosecuting related matters.
Mutuso Dhliwayo, director for the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (Zela), yesterday said there was need for capacity building of the judiciary and law enforcement agents to enable them to investigate and adjudicate environmental human rights abuses caused by business and mining companies during their operations.
Dhliwayo said this during a capacity building workshop for Parliamentarians and other stakeholders on United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights in Harare yesterday.
According to Mike Baab of the Danish Institute for Human Rights, the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights stipulate the role of business, government, civic society organisations and other stakeholders in terms of their responsibilities in curbing abuse of communities as they do business.
“We (Zela) are also focusing on capacity building of the judiciary and law enforcement agents to ensure they are well versed in environmental human rights violations so that when such violations are brought to them, they will know how to investigate and adjudicate on them,” Dhliwayo said.
“Businesses have a responsibility to respect human rights in their operations and when these rights are violated, they should be able to provide remedies and put in place measures to address them,” he said.
Dhliwayo said human rights violations by businesses included pollution of water sources, land degradation, deforestation, dumping of toxic waste, non-provision of protective clothing and others.
Justice Zvaita from Emmaus International Trust in Matabeleland said the organisation had reported artisanal gold miners (panners) at Esigodini for violation of communities’ environmental rights, but had noted with concern that such cases were not dealt with timeously at courts as they were not easily understood while criminal breaches were heard on time.
“Small-scale miners are causing a lot of havoc using mercury and cyanide and are not abiding by government regulations. If the judiciary and law enforcement agents like the police were included in some environmental human rights workshops, they will be able to understand the challenges that communities are facing due to operations of some businesses,” Zvaita said.
Glen View North MP Fani Munengami (MDC-T) said there was need for Parliament to craft stern laws to curb environmental human rights abuses.