By NQOBANI NDLOVU
ZIMBABWE’S human rights situation has significantly deteriorated, the European Union (EU) has said as it called on authorities not to hide behind COVID-19 to restrict people’s rights.
A number of opposition and civic activists have been arrested and taken to court facing various charges since the inception of the national lockdown in March this year.
Reports of abductions and torture of activists have also been rampant, with all fingers pointing at State security agents.
“The situation has significantly deteriorated in Zimbabwe, with multiple reports of arbitrary detentions and harassment, torture and inhumane treatment, including towards members of the opposition, restrictions on access to justice, and targeting of journalists and others investigating or speaking out against corruption,” the EU said in a statement on Tuesday.
Government and the ruling Zanu PF party officials, while denying the claims, have alleged that reports of rights’ abuses are a well-choreographed agenda by opposition and civic activists to soil the image of the country.
They also alleged that the activists were sponsored by the West and other anti-government organisations. However, the EU called on authorities to allow Zimbabweans to enjoy civic rights as enshrined in the Constitution.
“The COVID-19 pandemic should not be used as an excuse to limit the enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms of citizens in Zimbabwe, such as the freedom of expression, Press freedom and freedom of assembly,” the EU noted.
“The EU reiterates our ambition to support Zimbabwe in implementing concrete political and economic reforms, but for these reforms to stand the test of time they require an environment ensuring an inclusive national dialogue, through which citizens can exercise all their human rights, including their freedoms of assembly, association and expression.”
Mnangagwa has been under fire over alleged human rights abuses since he assumed office through a coup in November 2017.