UN red-flags Zim on human rights

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Zimbabwe's President Emmerson Mnangagwa looks on as he gives a media conference at the State House in Harare, Zimbabwe, August 3, 2018. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo

BY MOSES MATENGA/PRIVILEGE GUMBODETE
PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration was found wanting by United Nations (UN) member States on human rights violations, with enactment of draconian legislation to curtail freedoms coming under sharp focus.

Zimbabwe came under the spotlight yesterday at the UN Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review working group meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, where member States recommended action against perpetrators of human rights violations.

The United States permanent mission chargé d’affaires to the United Nations, Benjamin Moeling, said Zimbabwe should “establish an independent complaints mechanism to investigate and hold accountable members of the security forces who allegedly engaged in
in (human rights) violations and abuses”.

“(Zimbabwe must) enforce security and due process laws adopted under the 2013 Constitution that prohibit arbitrary arrests and prolonged detentions (and) allow the practice of constitutionally-guaranteed freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly, and association for all,” Moeling said in presenting US recommendations.

There were also calls for respect of the separation of powers to ensure independence of the Judiciary and impartial decision-making.

Zimbabwe was also accused of using the COVID-19 lockdown restrictions to undermine the freedoms of its people.

Australia said Zimbabwe should ensure free and fair presidential and parliamentary elections, allow the free operation of civil society actors and repeal all laws that discriminate against the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex community.

Zimbabwe goes for by-elections elections on March 26, while general elections will be held in 2023.

India and Luxembourg recommended that the southern African nation strengthens the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission and ensure its independence.

“That Zimbabwe should ensure courts are impartial, amend the Freedom of Information Act and the peace order Act and remove undue restrictions on freedoms,” Belgium said in its recommendations.

South Africa also weighed in calling on its neighbour to ensure alignment of the Zimbabwe Humans Rights Council Act with the Paris Principles, and the Constitution and provide funding for the protection and promotion of human rights.

But Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi, who represented Zimbabwe alongside permanent secretary Virginia Mabhiza, defended the country’s human rights record.

Norway also made recommendations on the Private Voluntary Organisations Act, freedom of expression and assembly, death penalty, among others, while other member States called for the protection of civic space and enjoyment of the freedom of peaceful assembly.

Complaints were raised by the civic society in Zimbabwe on the shrinking space for human rights defenders and the media.

Sweden recommended that should Zimbabwe take swift action to end impunity against human rights violations and enable free, fair and transparent elections, and take steps to ensure an independent Judiciary.

Canada also called for Zimbabwe to compensate victims of the August 1, 2018 post-election violence when the military shot and killed six civilians.

According to a report on Zimbabwe by the United Nations Human Rights Council office, the UN country team noted that the process of aligning legislation with the Constitution and with international human rights obligations was slow.

“The special rapporteur on freedom of peaceful assembly and of association stated that irrespective of the imposed unilateral restrictive measures, Zimbabwe had a duty to fulfil its human rights obligations,” the UN country team said.

“In addition, the special rapporteur received reports of arbitrary arrests and heard allegations of politically-motivated sexual violence.

“He recommended that Zimbabwe ensures that all allegations of excessive use of force were promptly, thoroughly and independently investigated, alleged perpetrators are prosecuted and adequate remedy was provided to the victims.”

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